The Mid-Week Itch: A Social Standard
By Kathleen Cahill
It may be common knowledge that clubs and bars survive mainly on their weekend business, while sometimes struggling throughout the week. But savvy business owners in Dayton see the work week as an exciting challenge where being innovative is key. By creating events on Monday through Thursday, people have begun to find excuses to get out even though it is not the weekend. Some of the attractions include karaoke and discounted drinks. With high demands in work places and students with large workloads, making time to get out and socialize during the week has become routine for those seeking an escape from daily stressors. Wednesdays, in particular, have managed to strike a chord among many Daytonians by providing a release from the mid-week itch.
One innovator is Luke Liakos, owner of Diamonds Cabaret, Vue Ultra Lounge, Baby Dolls and Masque. Masque is a gay-friendly club with a large number of straight patrons. The club is located in downtown Dayton at 34 N. Jefferson St. Since opening in late December 2005, Masque has brought a unique club atmosphere to the Dayton area. Once known as “College Night,” Masque now features Wednesday nights as what they have coined “Mid-week Mayhem.” The name speaks for itself, bringing in over 1,000 people on an average Wednesday. It is from 8 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. that Masque filters the giant flow of people coming and going from the club. On every day of the week, people can expect a $5 cover through their main door located in the back of the building, or a $10 cover through the express door in front.
“They have always been good, but this past summer they went crazy,” Liakos said. “Wednesday just grew and grew to the point of becoming mayhem.”
The majority of attendees on Wednesday nights are in the 18 to 30-year-old crowd with weekends bringing in a wider demographic. The young people at Masque dress to kill, leaving coats and sweaters behind in cars. Even in freezing temperatures, girls opt for club apparel consisting of short dresses, heels and off-the-shoulder shirts. Typically, around 11 p.m. the crowd for entrance to the club grows and leaves many waiting outside in the cold. They come by the dozens, not discouraged by the crowd, but excited, knowing the dance floor will be full.
Masque’s popularity is not by chance. According to Liakos, “The idea had been brewing for more than 15 years … we made some mistakes in design in the beginning and have corrected some of those.” Because of Liakos’ attention to detail, Masque has one of the most aesthetically pleasing interiors around. With good reason, the club spent $2.5 million on its creation, spending $1.5 million over the original budget. The design and over-all concept of Masque is what contributed to ranking in Out Magazine’s 60 best gay bars in the world.
During Wednesdays, the energy in Masque is contagious. People lose their inhibitions and cut loose. Patrons who normally consider themselves wallflowers find themselves dancing amidst the crowd of people. But if dancing is truly not your forte, the first floor provides a place for everyone. Large LCD televisions hang in almost every line of vision and display music videos in sync with the top-40 hits played by the DJ. The club is equipped with a large bar with near 360-degree service, dance floor, pool table and plenty of seating. Adding to the ambiance, the walls on the first floor are translucent with color-changing lights featured throughout the club.
The second floor was designed with the die-hard club goer in mind. It is paradise for anyone who wants to dance the night away listening to the DJ. Filling up the entire upper dance floor on a Wednesday night is common.
“I never want a place to fail because it wasn’t great,” Liakos said. “I wanted the best sound, the best lights that anyone is the Midwest has ever seen or heard.”
Liakos did just that by purchasing a Function One sound system from Europe and light effects from Martin Professional. The top floor’s sound system is able to provide the listener with deep bass while not overpowering the music, producing clarity rarely heard at that volume.
“Our sound on level two is so good we draw a deaf crowd in to dance because they can feel it,” Liakos added about the intensity of their system. Paired with the sound system, the lights play on beat to the music. Fog machines help capture laser lights that shoot across the dance floor, and what seem like hundreds of strobe lights ignite at once, pulsating with the music.
Masque is a gay club that has managed to bridge the gap between gay and straight bars and finds itself somewhere in the middle. In part, it is because of that successful meshing that Masque grew in popularity.
“I love the fact that we get a straight crowd that comes into a gay environment,” Liakos said. “I believe Masque has definitely made Dayton more lesbian and gay friendly.” It is because of this acceptance that Masque provides guests with a friendly atmosphere.
Across town on Wednesday is another hot spot. Since opening in August 2008, Blind Bobs, located at 430 E. 5th St. in the Oregon District, has grown significantly in popularity, making it one of Dayton’s go-to bars. Best known for its musical acts, Blind Bob’s is more than just a safe haven for local bands. Experimenting with what works with the venue, the process has been a result of trial and error. General Manager, Nate Mendenhall explained that while trying to carry the torch of Elbow’s, another bar in Dayton, (now closed) the idea surfaced to do karaoke. Elbow’s featured a karaoke night that did well. It was then decided to replicate Elbow’s karaoke to the extent of even hiring on the same DJ, Nancy Sell, to host the night.
Since 1997, Sell has been bringing in crowds of people to local establishments with her karaoke. “She is like a band, she brings in her own set of fans,” said Mendenhall.
Those same fans have been the backbone to Wednesday night karaoke at Blind Bob’s. Sell’s long-standing reputation in the area drives unexpected talent out to sing. Singing patrons are made to feel like rock stars. Sell’s catalog of music allows people to sing anything from Sinatra to Lady Gaga. Karaoke night is still fun and light-hearted, but there are those who take singing very seriously sometimes, making it seem less like karaoke and more like “American Idol.”
Patrons arriving later in the evening on a Wednesday can expect to find the large bar packed to standing room only. The bar is fully stocked and produces anything from a PBR to a dirty martini. On Wednesdays, the bartenders and servers are attentive and do their best to meet the needs of everyone in the bar. In spite of their best efforts, at times the bar is so full that it can take a few minutes to be served.
“I don’t work on Wednesdays but stopped in with friends to grab a drink,” said Mendenhall. “I had to wait a while and it wasn’t that I work there that they put off helping me. It’s nice to see that much business on a Wednesday night.”
Those who get there early grab tables, sit back and enjoy the spectacle.
“Wednesdays are different because it is a mixture of people who come to eat and watch, but you still have your crowd coming to drink,” Mendenhall said.
When coming to eat at Blind Bob’s, guests find an array of choices. “We started off with traditional pub food and our head chef Ashley Ashbrook put a twist on a lot of things. We got a little creative,” said Mendenhall. Some popular items include a stuffed barbecue burger, a vegetarian sandwich named Cool, Calm and Collected and an appetizer of deep-fried pineapple rings.
Before opening, major reconstruction was done to the interior of Blind Bob’s, which was previously Nite Owl. Even with this major face-lift, Blind Bob’s holds true to the historic feeling of the Oregon District. The added outside patio is most popular during warmer months, but is used nearly year round with a fire pit providing warmth when it’s cooler outside.
Wednesday karaoke has become a smash hit at Blind Bob’s partially because of its appeal to people young and old. “We even had to add a door guy because we got too popular and were bringing in too many under-agers,” explained Mendenhall.
For now, Wednesdays have been a great accomplishment for such a new bar.
Mendenhall said, “Bob’s is still kind of a toddler and we are still trying to find our niche in this town.”
Other establishments with Wednesday highlights in downtown Dayton include places like Therapy Café located on 452 E. Third St. Five-dollar martinis are the specialty on Wednesday nights. Therapy brings clarity to its patrons’ week by providing the guests with a modern, upscale place to relax.
Trolley Stop at 530 E. Fifth St. in Dayton hosts an Appalachian music night. Skilled musicians come together every Wednesday to keep that spirit of this old-time music alive. The first Wednesday of each month, Trolley Stop holds a craft beer tasting night with Mike Schwartz of Belmont Party Supply.
Every Wednesday at South Park Tavern at 1301 Wayne Ave. is Open Mic night. Everyone who is willing to get on stage to put on a show is welcome. South Park Tavern has an intimate setting like that of a true American bar, and is known for its large selection of beers and out-of-this-world pizza.
Canal Street Tavern at 308 E. First St. hosts different musicians and bands on Wednesday nights. Musicians and fans alike enjoy the atmosphere due to the positioning of the stage, and the seating being so close and interactive. The musical acts are treated with the utmost respect by patrons who give the performers their full attention.
While most area bars and clubs will still remain the most popular on Fridays and Saturdays, Wednesdays are coming alive in downtown Dayton. But try to remember: tomorrow’s Thursday, not Saturday.
Inside cover photo by Kathleen Cahill.
Reach DCP freelance writer Kathleen Cahill at email@example.com.