‘Where friends meet’

The Apartment Lounge is a haven for those in need of community.
The Apartment Lounge has a long history in the Grand Rapids community. Visit it at 33 Sheldon Ave. NE. Photo by Johnny Quirin

For nearly 50 years, The Apartment Lounge has served as a place “where friends meet.” The LGBTQ bar traces its roots back to 1972 when Ed Ladner and Milt Lennox, a couple since the mid-1960s, decided to open a bar together downtown. Over the next eight to 10 years, the bar’s name and location shifted several times before settling onto the northeast corner of Fulton Street and Monroe Avenue as The Apartment Lounge. That building, where the outdoor seating area for the B.O.B. is located today, was targeted for demolition and development in 1987. The Apartment Lounge moved to its current site on Sheldon Avenue in 1988.

The Apartment Lounge is best known for the community built within and around it. The bar has been the setting for everyday social gatherings and also a space for difficult topics. Over a drink, you could talk about coming out to your parents or worries you might be fired because your boss found out you were gay. At the height of the AIDS epidemic, the bar also was a place where many talked through the tough news of an HIV diagnosis. The legacy and community of The Apartment Lounge continue today under the ownership of Bobby Johnson, a business owner and longtime friend of Ed and Milt, who purchased the bar from the couple in 2012.

This story can be found in the July/August 2021 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine. To get more stories like this delivered to your mailbox, subscribe here

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