April 15th, 1980 – Detroit Free Press

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.

Lili passed away in 1999. The family closed the bar in 2002 and sold it. It reopened not too long after as The Painted Lady which still operates today.

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6 thoughts on “Lili’s

  1. We were a Sure Shot Band Called TNT (The Neighborhood Threat) September 9th 1979 We were the 1st and last band to play that night at Lili’s.Why you might ask? Because the vice squad showed up up with the cops 👮‍♀️ and hauled Lili off to jail. Reason being TNT we’re all under age. I can hear that Detective clear as if was yesterday. The cop said to our drummer what do you mean your only 14? I’m glad the cops didn’t find the case of beer 🍺 we gave to our road crew, who were 14,15 and 16 years old. The band didn’t drink. What made in worse Cameron Wesley told us Wayne Kramer walked into that raid and he had just just gotten out of prison. So Cameron had enough he fired us. Till he needed us to play the 1979 Rockathon because Strut dropped out. We said to Cameron Wesley so Cam you needed us after all. We were real assholes as kids. So we changed the name of the band to Heaven’s Wish and played Cobo Hall with Ted Nugent at the Whiplash Band Show. Sure Shot was the best of our lives. We might have played with every arena coming down there has been life. But nothing tops the late 70’s Detroit punk era. I wouldn’t trade it for a gig with Led Zeppelin. By the way thank you to the Mutants you lended us all your gear at that was left at Sure Shots. We were kids we didn’t have money for gear till 1979.

  2. The Polish Muslims and, I believe, their predecessors, The Reruns, also had appearances there. Circa 1982 if I recall correctly.

  3. We played here dozens and dozens of times. Great vibe with Lili as your mom, Alan behind the bar, and occasionally a sighting of Art. It was a fantastic good sounding room with great energy and the coolest crowd. We loved it. Usually we made enough to cover our bar tab too….

  4. I remember going to shows at Bookie’s, then after the show we would go to Lili’s. If I remember correctly there was no front door, you had to go down a narrow gap between buildings to the door. They had the best jukebox, remember hearing English Beats “Do Nothing “ for the first time from that jukebox. It seemed like you were in on a secret just going there. It was so cool.

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