By Admin | January 31, 2004

“Irene’s Last Call” (Renie Oxley) is about a bar in Detroit, Michigan and the woman who opened it. Irene Kress is her name and Kress Lounge is her bar. The film very quickly summarizes the story of the bar’s founding. Kress was the first woman in Michigan to apply for a liquor license and open a bar. For sixty-five years, Kress Lounge was a home away from home to travelers, and a hotspot for locals. “Irene’s Last Call” is about Irene Kress and her lounge, but it’s also about how a neighborhood is impacted by changing times. Many of the shops that were around during the lifespan of Kress Lounge became used car dealerships. Irene’s bar would one day face the same fate as those other shops.

If “Irene’s Last Call” were a work of fiction, the loyal patrons of Kress Lounge would probably come together and devise a plan to stop the businessman from buying out the bar. Oxley’s work is a documentary, though. In real life, the closing of a particular store may signify the end of an era, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t the right time. We all get a little sad when something we love must come to an end. For those who loved Kress Lounge, they shouldn’t feel too bad. Irene, strong and vibrant woman that she is, ran the bar well into her eighties.

As with other situations where one must part with something of sentimental value, what makes the closing of Kress Lounge so hard to accept for some patrons is how much it meant to them. Furthermore, the bar had a very special décor. In addition to the trinkets that were displayed along the liquor counter, there were also a number of portraits in hanging in various places. Each painting featured a beautiful, semi-naked woman. While the model’s face resembles a young Irene, her likeness is allegedly only depicted in one of them. It’s impossible to watch Irene talk about closing down her bar because you can sense her sadness, but she knows what she’s doing. Nothing lasts forever and as the documentary reveals, Irene knows when to call it day.  

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  1. Ronald B. Chappell says:

    Kress Lounge was a favorite spot for my Dad, Settie Chappell. Dad, with one bad eye, was a superior Pool player. And because of his outward personality, everyone knew and liked him. He is now deceased. I don’t know if he is in the documentary, but I sure would like to see it.

    • Mel Eckert says:

      According to IMDB, Settie is in the film! I saw it when it came out at the Royal Oak Main. It was a one night showing with the people that made it. I have been trying to get a DVD of the movie for some time now with no luck. I am enclosing my name and email, please feel free to contact me. Mel Eckert

  2. Kris Theisen says:

    Does anyone know where I can find this documentary? My uncle worked there in the 30s/40’s and I would love to see this but cant find it anywhere.

    • Brian says:

      Maybe someone could contact her and ask to have it put up on YouTube?
      I’m dying to see it

      • Steven says:

        I’ve found the director on Facebook, and I sent her a message asking if she can share it. I’ll let you know what I hear!

  3. Dawn Prush says:

    Where can I find more history ? I grew up in the bars neighborhood. I even went to the bar as a regular and attended Irene’s last call .

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