Best of Detroit 2021 Winner Spotlight: Liberty Bar

The Pontiac spot serves up small plates — and a big sense of community
liberty bar
Liberty Bar acts as a safe haven for local members of the LGBTQ community. // Photograph courtesy of Liberty Bar

Downtown Pontiac’s Liberty Bar first opened in 1930, making it the longest-running bar in Oakland County. But the bar’s 90-year run nearly came to an end in 2019, when the then-owners decided to shut its doors.

For much of the bar’s lengthy existence, it has acted — either overtly or covertly — as a safe haven for local members of the LGBTQ community. So when Pontiac native Brett Nicholson heard it would close, he found himself wondering where else regulars would find the kind of kinship they’d forged at Liberty. He soon realized the place had to be saved, and the only way to do that was to buy it himself. 

After $22,000 in renovations and a complete overhaul of the food and drink menus, Nicholson reopened Liberty Bar in 2020. It now employs a small-plates concept, offering a selection of classic bar foods such as tater tots and chicken wings, plus numerous poutine variations. The most popular? The Chelsea Morning, in which a traditional medley of fries, cheese curds, and sausage gravy is topped with a fried egg. 

liberty bar
The Pontiac bar offers a food menu with poutine, chicken wings, sliders — pictured above — and more. // Photograph courtesy of Liberty Bar

The New York City-themed drink menu, meanwhile, is an ode to the bar’s name. It features creative cocktails such as the Brooklyn, with vanilla, grapefruit, and St. Germain, and the bestselling Bachelor Martini, a jalapeno-pineapple concoction with a skull-shaped ice cube.

Despite a rough first year, Nicholson says, the Liberty community is stronger than ever: “You won’t ever leave without a new friend or a great story.”

For more information, visit

See who else made this year’s Best of Detroit list — our annual reader voted poll of the top things, places, and people in the metro area — here