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Issue Date: December 2011


I Remember When: Nighttown


as told to Erick Trickey

In 1965, John Barr, now 81, bought the Silhouette Lounge in Cleveland Heights and renamed it Nighttown. It quickly became one of Cleveland's hottest bars of the '60s and most popular restaurants of the '70s. Now it's a 400-seat restaurant and jazz club. Barr, who sold it in 2000, collected many of the posters, drawings and paintings that evoke both the Victorian and Prohibition eras.

I was 35 years old. I bought it for $23,000 — $1,500 down, 5 percent interest, from someone who was connected. He was in the jukebox business. (Laughs.) I didn't have any option. I was living with my mother, and she was tired of looking at me. I had a $300 bar tab at the place.

On the day I bought it, two guys who robbed a place on Carnegie and were heading for Akron stopped to have a relaxing drink on the way out of town. The bartender was having an argument with her boyfriend, and they intervened. They pulled out guns and put them on the bar. One fella in here loved to mix it up, and the other was a Cleveland Heights cop. They took the guys and beat the bejeezus out of them. That was 4 in the afternoon. I took over at 6.

I had some acquaintances who worked for The Plain Dealer at the time. Then women came in and saw there were imaginative people at the bar. There was some good conversation going on. It just exploded.

When I took it on, that's when The Pill came in. On a Friday night, many times, it was 60-40 women. It'd be a sea of faces. We had a policy, if you wanted to buy a girl a drink, you had to ask her. We got rid of a lot of idiots that way.

The fire department would come here every Friday and close us down.

One guy, an attorney, streaked the place. He was wearing a Snoopy cap, one of those aviator caps, and nothing else. He tried to get through the bar and couldn't get through, so he ran through the dining room.

It's still kind of a neighborhood meeting place. Any rumor or gossip you want to hear, you can hear it here.

12387 Cedar Road, Cleveland Heights, 216-795-0550, nighttowncleveland.com

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