In November of 2013, the owners of Happy Dog — Sean Kilbane, Eric Williams and Sean Watterson — announced that they would be opening an eastside version of their popular Detroit Shoreway bar and restaurant in a space that rivaled the original in terms of full-Cleveland charm: the Euclid Tavern.
"What I love about the space is that it's not all big box and shiny-new," Williams said at the time. "The Euclid Tavern is lived-in — it's got some history and life to it.”
The Euclid Tavern closed in 2013 after more than 100 years of on-again, off-again operation. The historic University Circle club with the iconic neon blade sign has been host to countless local, regional and national acts. Live music scenes in the 1987 film "Light of Day" with Michael J. Fox and Joan Jett were filmed there in front of local crowds.
But following the untimely death of partner Sean Kilbane, the Happy Dog partners placed all those plans on hold, unsure if or when the project would come to fruition.
Well, not only are those plans back on track, but opening day is fast approaching.
The first thing that strikes this writer — a person of a certain age who spent countless nights at the Euc watching bands like The Janglers and Oroboros— is how much the joint still looks and feels like the Euclid Tavern. The towering sign still acts as a beacon out front, the original bar and barstools still march clear to the back, the wood floors are beat up as hell, the old tin ceiling is still very much an old tin ceiling.
“I’m hoping that people walk in here and see the bar, the fans, the ceiling tiles and think Euclid Tavern,” Williams says during a walk-through. “And the college kids who have no fucking clue about the Euc will think it’s just another dive bar. It’s not made to look like a dive bar, it just is.”
The space is still divided into two main rooms, with the bar on one side, the stage on the other and a wide breach in the wall uniting the pair. Four high-top tables will act as a natural buffer between rooms. What’s different, however, is the placement and prominence of the new stage, which has been relocated from the middle of the room to the front (along Euclid Ave.).
“This setup is more conducive to the kind of programming we do at Happy Dog [West] — the spoken word, the Case Western nights, the readings, trivia…,” Williams says, adding that much of that programming will shift east.
Management has devised a clever seating system that utilizes lengthy high-tops that run parallel to the stage during mealtime, but swivel towards the wall to become drink rails during shows to maximize standing-room-only crowds. That arrangement allows Happy Dog to go from 100 dinner guests to 200 concert guests. A small back room with vintage pinball and arcade games will serve as a family friendly refuge from the main rooms.
Gone is the interior stairwell leading to the basement, replaced by a new rear entrance distinguished by a canopy and neon sign. Those stairs lead to an old speakeasy like space with brick walls and wooden bar. The smaller room is ideally suited to stand-up comedy, speaker events and private parties.
In terms of food and drink, Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern will offer “the same hot dogs, veggie dogs, tots and fries” as HDW, says Williams. “The only variation is that we’ll feature more ethnically diverse influences through various toppings.” A new draft beer system will offer two dozen options.
Look for Happy Dog in University Circle to open the week of September 15.