Toledo's nightlife is putting the "world" in world-class with clubs offering the tastes and sounds of exotic lands.
Kilts and bagpipes, for example, set the mood for a virtual visit to Scotland when patrons step inside Bagpiper's Pub & Eatery, a downtown bar and restaurant that opened last year in the space once filled by the Boody House Restaurant.
At the Bait Shop Bar & Grill, 2543 South Reynolds Rd. at Heatherdowns, game fish and old boats create a nautical theme that whisks guests away to sun-drenched shores, at least in their imaginations.
"It's kind of a mix of Key West, Put-in-Bay, and a Jimmy Buffett-type bar and grill," co-owner Timothy J. Rockwood said of the Bait Shop, which opened in the South Toledo strip mall last August.
"It's like bringing the Lake Erie Islands and Florida to the south end of Toledo so you don't have to drive so far."
The club features live music on Friday and Saturday nights, featuring local and regional bands with an occasional national act, which last year included the Dynatones and the Chicago Rhythm & Blues Kings.
Adding to the establishment's faux waterfront atmosphere is a menu laden with charbroiled entrees including Lake Erie perch, plus fried alligator and a landlubber's favorite that Rockwood proudly describes as "big sloppy cheeseburgers" - in paradise?
Visitors to Mickey Finn's Pub, near downtown at 602 Lagrange St., are all treated like honorary Irishmen and can enjoy a St. Patrick's Day celebration 12 times a year.
"We have a party on the 17th of every month," said Trisha Finn, who owns the pub with her husband, Mickey, "leading up to the big one on St. Patrick's Day in March."
To mark the actual holiday this March, Mickey Finn's is planning a week's worth of Celtic music. The world-renowned Seven Nations will get things going on Sunday, March 12, Mrs. Finn said, followed by the Diggers on March 13, Michael O'Brien and the Distractions on March 14, Mossy Moran, a native of Waterford, Ireland, on March 15, Odd Enough on March 16, and MacAoidhcq and Moguecq Doyle on the big, Friday, March 17.
The pub features live music of various styles five nights a week, and was the site of a live recording session last fall by Big Guitars, the Toledo duo of Patrick Lewandowski and Bobby May.
Several brands of Irish beer, including Guinness Stout, Harp, Caffrey's, and Irish Red, are available and the pub recently began serving lunch on week- days and dinner seven nights a week. The menu includes such Emerald Isle favorites as shepherd's pie, bangers, and Irish stew as well as typical American fare.
The blues is the specialty of the house at Mona's Riverview Lounge, which opened a year ago at 843 North Summit St.
Such local blues aces as Tim "Tonedog" Oehlers, Mudfoot, Johnny Reed and the Houserockers, and Laurie Swyers and the Redfox Blues Band have performed at the downtown venue.
Owner Mona Awada stressed that other musical styles are also featured at her club, and groups that played there recently include Studebaker Slim, a Toledo band that plays classic pop standards; Stacked Ham, a Top 40 cover band, and electric blues-rocker Josh Boyd.
"On Wednesday nights we have our open stage," Mrs. Awada said. "It's wonderful, it's truly amazing."
The open stage night means the microphone is open to amateur musicians or visiting professionals of all ages and talent.
"We get all sorts of drummers, vocalists, bass players, guitar players, electric fiddle players, harmonica. ... We have saxophone players, trumpeters, and there's a young kid who plays tuba. If you can bring it in, you can play it here," Mrs. Awada said with a laugh.
Toledo has long been a jazz haven, one of the only midsized U.S. cities that can boast two full-time jazz clubs with Rusty's Jazz Caf and Murphy's Place, plus a healthy dose of vintage jazz at Ragtime Rick's First Draught.
Now the city has another jazz venue in Yikes! Supper Club, on the 19th floor of the Hawthorne Suites Hotel, 141 North Summit St. The intimate venue, which specializes in contemporary or "smooth" jazz, is run by Ike Stubblefield, the noted Toledo jazz organist.
The first big event at Yikes! was a New Year's Eve bash, and the club has also brought in renowned Philadelphia jazz organist Joey DeFrancesco. But an "official" grand-opening party is still in the planning stages and more guest artists are being booked.
Acoustic "straight-ahead" jazz is the mainstay of Murphy's Place, the cozy riverside club at 151 Water St. in Fort Industry Square. The house band is the Murphys Trio and the venue's special guests have included such jazz stars as David "Fathead" Newman, Sonny Fortune, Benny Green, and Nicholas Payton. Once a month, the 13-piece Murphy's Place Orchestra, led by Brad Sharp, heats things up for a Monday night show.
Rusty's, at 2202 Tedrow Rd., is the city's oldest jazz club and has become such an institution that the city added a sign on the corner of Tedrow and Byrne roads honoring the street as "Jazz Avenue." Owner Margaret "Rusty" Monroe, who has given countless jazz artists a place to perform over the decades, is an inductee of the Lake Erie West Hall of Fame for the Performing Arts.
Ragtime, Dixieland, and other forms of "traditional" jazz dating from the first few decades of the 20th century is the music of choice at Ragtime Rick's First Draught, 4733 Glendale Ave., where such players as Ray Heitger, Banjo Betsy, and Wes Linenkugel have performed recently.
Rock and roll, of course, still rules at many Toledo-area nightclubs.
"Last year was not a good year; it was a spectacular year," said Kypros "Kip" Diacou, owner of several Toledo nightclubs.
Diacou recently renovated his nightclub at 135 South Byrne Rd., formerly known as the Field House, and for many years as Roxanne's, and christened it the Roxy.
"The Roxy is mostly a college bar," he said. "There are two rooms, one with live entertainment and one with a DJ. We are doing more of the 1980s music, which I personally love next to '60s music."
Classic dance tunes fill the air at Steven Jay's, where the house band is the dynamic horn-powered Homewreckers, now in its 10th year as Toledo's best party band.
"I call Steven Jay's 'the cream of the crop,'" Diacou said. "It's mostly a 25-and-older crowd and it's done well, doing wonderful."
Toledo cover band Uncle Sandwitch packs the house at its namesake venue, Club Sandwitch, 1260 West Alexis Rd., and country music keeps patrons' boots scooting at Nashville's, 2518 South Reynolds Rd.
Another club where live music can be enjoyed is the Hard HatCaf, 4500 North Detroit Ave., which is decorated with a workingman's motif.
The Lighthouse Caf, 2605 Broadway, is a new acquisition for Diacou, who said he is completely remodeling the riverfront bar and restaurant. He plans a grand opening in late April, and the facility will more easily accommodate the crowds because of expansions to its parking lot and dock area.
Springtime will also see the annual reopening of Croakie's, the outdoor patio bar and concert venue in the 100 block of Main Street in East Toledo.
"When Croakie's opens, we're the biggest nightclub in Toledo for the next four months," said Jonathan Anderson, promotions director for the River East Entertainment District, which also includes the Main Event, Frankie's Inner City Lounge, and the BPM 128 dance club, all within a short walk of each other on Main Street.
One cover charge gets patrons into all three clubs from Wednesday through Sunday nights.
The Main Event regularly features top local rock bands and, through a promotion partnership with Mission Concerts, also brings in national touring acts. Last year the club hosted concerts by rockers such as Type O Negative, the Rollins Band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Sponge, Sevendust, MXPX, and Vanilla Ice.
One of the highlights of 1999 was the first annual Toledo Music Festival, a daylong event held at the Main Event and Croakie's that showcased approximately 30 local bands. The second annual fest is now being planned for May, Anderson said.
Swing still is king at Citi Lounge, the downtown club that jumps, jives, and wails to a variety of dance music. The venue at 217 North Superior St. has featured such famous national acts as the Royal Crown Revue, the Atomic Fireballs, and the Johnny Favourite Orchestra, and has organized an annual Swing Festival the last few summers at the outdoor Centennial Terrace in Sylvania Township.
Citi Lounge recently opened a kitchen that specializes in pizza and pasta.
Above Citi Lounge is Club Tonic, a dance club where DJ Mike spins tunes for college students every Thursday and Tony Rios plays sizzling salsa, merengue, and Latin music on Saturdays.
Music lovers who prefer a smoke and alcohol-free environment have a couple of entertainment options.
Toledo folk-pop singer Kerry Patric Clark performs from 7 to 9 p.m. Fridays at the renovated Monclova Community Center, 8115 Monclova Rd.
"It's an alternative," said Clark, a onetime member of the New Christy Minstrels who next month will release another solo album, "Choose Love." "It's for all ages and we encourage people to bring their family. I don't really want to play in a bar anymore," he added.
Friends and supporters of the community center bring homemade desserts for sale during the Friday night concerts, and coffee, soft drinks, and juices are also available.
When Clark is booked to play elsewhere on a Friday night, he brings in such special guests as Eddie Boggs and Dave Browning.
Another alternative for music fans is the Solid Rock Caf, 1550 South Reynolds Rd. in the Maumee Marketplace, which features live contemporary Christian and gospel music from 8 to 10 most Friday and Saturday nights.
National recording artists such as Polarboy, the Vigilantes of Love, the 77s, and Steve Camp have played at the Solid Rock, which also presents such local Christian and gospel artists as Sanctus Real, Pinewood Derby, First Creation, and the Queens of Harmony.