Through the '90s, the Flats were always hopping. These days, tumbleweeds would blow down the East Bank's streets if they weren't paved. But the district still has a pulse, and three new local clubs are betting that the crowds will come back.
Under the Shoreway bridge, Cleveland's Coyote (1187 Old River Road) is modeled on New York City's world-famous Coyote Ugly Saloon. The venue serves big, cheap hamburgers by day and turns into a rowdy dance club at night. A buxom, scantily clad bar staff dances on tables and pours body shots, mixing booze, beers, and attitude with a touch of velvet-rope sophistication.
Coyote manager Mark Tredanaro believes that the competing bar trade on West Sixth Street could ultimately help the Flats come back to life. "It's getting better every week," says Tredanaro. "For a few of us, the business will be there in October. Once one place does better, it'll go better for everyone."
Coyote teases with flashes of skin, but down the block, they deliver. The gentleman's club that was formerly Circus and the Penthouse Club is now Larry Flynt's Hustler Club (1045 Old River Road), part of the porn magnate's adult-entertainment empire. The Hustler Club still has a faux-Roman decor from its stint as the Circus and still focuses on rock and techno music. But management says that the corporate office plans to make some big-budget renovations in upcoming months to create a flashy upscale atmosphere.
Dance clubs dominate the district, especially since the House of Blues took a chunk out of the Odeon's schedule. But live music can still be found in the Flats. Formerly the Basement, Rockabilly's (1078 E. River Road) is now a dimly lit country-rock bar, with a swinging dance floor and a jukebox stocked with twangy honky-tonk and gritty blues.
"The bar itself is less than 10 feet from the sidewalk, which reminds me a lot of New Orleans," says Mark Hoffman, singer-guitarist of Cleveland country-rockers Lonesome Bones, which has played the club regularly since it opened in late May. "Rockabilly's is taking the Flats back from big-hair dance clubs and meat markets, and returning it to the days of yore."
· Downtown blues hot spot Fat Fish Blue (21 Prospect Avenue) will launch its annual $1,000 Talent Search contest on Tuesday, August 2. Bands are eligible, while the club's house band is available to back individual singers. The contest runs every Tuesday through November 22.
· Acclaimed singer-songwriter Doug Gillard will be playing his last show as a Clevelander Thursday at the Beachland Ballroom. The guitarist is joining his fiancée in North Carolina.
· Cobra Verde's cover of the Troggs' "I Want You" made its cable debut on Tuesday, July 19, as the soundtrack to some steamy sex in the FX dramedy Rescue Me.
· Amps II Eleven, nominees for Scene's hard-rock band of the year, have parted ways with guitarist Attila Csapo and drummer Steve Callahan. Bassist Tony Erba attributes the split to "dedication and attitude issues. They apparently felt the grass is greener with their other band." Csapo and Callahan are currently playing in Welcome to Bangkok. Amps plans to continue and make good on scheduled August shows. Prospective replacements can contact the band through its website (www.amps2eleven.com).
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