Thursday, Apr 26, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Where bright lights shine at night


Murphy's is one of the places to find live music in downtown Toledo. Larry Smith on the alto saxophone sits in on a set with Bob White on the drums; Claude Black, piano, and Clifford Murphy, bass.

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From a live music haven often mistaken for a place to buy fish tackle, to partying the night away in a hip hop and R&B club with music spun by a female disc jockey named Martini, the Toledo area doesn't miss a beat when it comes to having a vibrant night life filled with entertainment outlets for just about every taste.

As the sun goes down in the city and surrounding suburbs, without failure, beginning on a Thursday night and well into the weekend, the spotlight beams on a host of night spots about as varied as the music and clientele each attracts.

Take the heading Night Clubs in the Ameritech Yellow Pages, under which lists 41 Toledo clubs as varied as a jazz cafe, to a host of taverns and neighborhood bars, and even a sprinkling of lounges featuring exotic dancers.

But that's not it for the Toledo area's night scene. The city boasts a regional reputation for such good restaurants, that when the moon hovers over the city, these eateries act as popular havens for people to enjoy their evening hours with a good meal, drinks, and a night out with friends.

Among the city's most popular restaurants for such night life synergy include Friday's, 1334 Bernath Parkway, the plethora of side-by-side dining options in International Park - Navy Bistro, Real Seafood, Tango's, Zia's, and Hoster's - and many other favorite restaurants throughout Toledo, Maumee, and Sylvania so jam packed on Friday and Saturday nights that the waiting time for a dinner table or seat at the bar is often one hour or longer.

In the way of music spots, Toledo knows what it likes and doesn't stray far from the sounds of jazz, blues, Top 40, R&B, country, live music, and good old fashioned rock 'n' roll, with the exception of a few Latin clubs, acoustic spots, and even piano bars.

Still, the bar scene, as opposed to dance clubs, dominate as locals' overwhelming favorite nightlife activity.

Bars range from the small neighborhood corner variety where regulars rule bar stools and neighbors often complain of too much noise, to the increasingly popular high-end variety such as Avenue Bistro, 6710 W. Central Ave., a restaurant whose bar area is a popular weekend haven for the community's young professionals.

A glimmer of excitement is beginning to dawn over the nighttime scene in downtown Toledo, where the few, but popular evening spots are awaiting a larger clientele with the anticipation of the opening of the new downtown ballpark for the Toledo Mud Hens.

The opening of the historic Valentine Theatre has sparked interest in venturing downtown for evening entertainment and dining, and has cast an interest by developers to increase options for after work and evening night life activity.

Downtown's nightclub presence is primarily that of Club Bijou, which has undergone several name changes, and a facelift, to now include The Red Room, The Underground, The Attic, and the pending Downtown Pub - all night spots housed within or next to the larger, main nightclub. At Bijou, the activity and demographics include dancing and mingling among a largely twentysomething crowd, including one night deemed as “College ID” night.

Jazz and blues spots are among the cities traditional favorites, with well-known jazz spots often hosting local jams and national musicians such as Murphy's Place, at 151 Water St., and Rusty's Jazz Cafe, 2202 Tedrow Rd., which was recently named by Men's Journal magazine as one of the “50 Best Bars in America.” Ragtime Rick's, 4733 Glendale Ave., and Mancy's Italian restaurant, 5453 Monroe St., also boasts live jazz musicians and vocalists.

Night life for blues has a historic tradition in the Toledo area from the late 1940s in Swanton Township when a nightclub in an outbuilding on Frank and Sarah Hines's farm became a frequent stopover for top blues and jazz performers such as Joe Tex, Wilson Pickett, Bobby Blue Bland, and John Lee Hooker. Today, among the locales for live blues include Mona's Riverview Lounge, 843 N. Summit St., Mickey Finn's Pub, 602 Lagrange St., Long Horn Saloon, 944 Phillips Ave., Amigo's Cantina, 5111 Monroe St., and DeSimones, 1633 W. Laskey Rd.

A sprinkling of locations also exist for country music lovers including Nashville's, 2518 S. Reynolds Rd., Rooster Inn, 831 Starr Ave., Jerry and Ben's 5347 N. Detroit Ave., and Ladies Choice, 1637 Broadway Ave. The acoustic sound is gaining in its popularity with spots such as Doc Watson's, 1515 S. Byrne Rd., and the Village Idiot, 309 Conant St., among the hot spots featuring local and regional acoustic bands.

Toledo is lacking for outlets that provide R&B music or an active hip-hop scene, but there are a few notable nightspots known for their large crowds and popular drinks.

Notables include neighborhood bars, Quality Bar, 1424 Cherry St., Robert's Food & Spirits, 2635 N. Detroit St., and the In Zone, at 1701 Lagrange St. Each borders surrounding residential neighborhoods and is equipped with a juke box filled with old school and current R&B and hip-hop tunes. The newest, the In Zone, with its well-decorated black d cor, strictly caters to an over 30 crowd and sometimes features live local bands. The Quality Bar, and Robert's are more known for their drink specials and serve as popular meeting and mingling spots for singles and couples. Both bars do not feature live music, but have a jukebox and small but ample space for dancing.

Tia's Lounge, 2248 Ashland Ave., which has undergone a host of name changes and new ownership dating back to the 1970s when it was known as a popular spot called the Fifth Quarter, features an exciting mix of live R&B local bands and popular area radio DJs. Tia's also is spacious with comfortable seating and a tasty soul food menu.

The Next Level, 2640 W. Laskey Rd., formerly the Living Room, caters to a young crowd of 20 to early thirtysomethings, and features the latest in hip-hop and R&B dance music. The dress code is strict on its no jeans policy and Saturdays seem to rule as the facility's most popular and jam-packed night. The Next Level features a VIP section, contemporary drinks like the Apple Martini, and its own Next Level Hustle, an intricate group dance known by regulars and taught to newcomers by the dance club's employees.

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