Opened by Maria Lidia “Lili” Karwowski in 1974, Lili’s started in a very honest way. Art Lyzak, vocalist for The Mutants and Lili’s son, says she got a job as a barmaid a few years before in Hamtramck because her second husband wasn’t good at keeping up the child support payments. When Lili bought her own bar she continued to keep it simple as a shot & a beer joint catering to Hamtramck’s blue collar and Polish immigrant community. As an immigrant herself, who spent some time in a concentration camp, she understood her patrons and, eventually, became well-known for her friendliness and wild fashion.
Lyzak says after The Mutants played in New York in the mid-1970s, before the Bookie’s scene got going, he tried to convince Lili on opening the place to bands, but she was against the idea at the time. A few years later, Lyzak says he took Lili to Bookie’s so she could get an idea of the scene that was developing. By August 1979, Lili agreed to letting bands in her place. The April 15th, 1980 Detroit Free Press highlighted the bar with a story headlined “Punk and polka at home at Lili’s”.
Notable visitors to the bar including The Clash, Iggy Pop, and Kelsey Grammer. Bruce Springsteen tried to get in on a busy night but got turned away at the door because, Lyzak says, Lili didn’t know who he was.
Lili Karwowski and her son, Art Lyzak of The Mutants behind the bar of her namesake Hamtramck bar. (Photo Courtesy of Jeff – UHF Records)
Lyzak and his Mutants bandmate John Amore hosted a show called “Hamtramck Nightlife” from Lili’s in 1982 which also featured a “performance” by the band.