In what can only be described as The Best News Ever, Happy Dog partners Eric Williams, Sean Kilbane and Sean Watterson will open an eastside version of their popular bar and restaurant in a space that rivals the original in terms of historic appeal: the Euclid Tavern.
"What I love about the space is that it's not all big box and shiny-new," Williams explains. "The Euclid Tavern is lived-in — it's got some history and life to it."
The Euclid Tavern closed last spring 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.
Formally announced on Thursday at University Circle Inc.'s annual meeting, the news is just one more way leaders in that neighborhood are actively trying to create what UCI president Chris Ronayne calls a "complete neighborhood" — one where everything a resident might need or want is within a 20-minute walk.
"We've had an intentional effort to bring back Euclid Avenue over the past five years, diligently trying to reclaim the Main Street," Ronanye told Scene. "The Euc is an icon to Cleveland, an icon to the music scene, and it's an icon to Euclid Avenue. When you marry up the icon of the Euclid Tavern with the new icon of the Happy Dog, you have a winner."
Ronanye added that his organization actively pursued the owners of Happy Dog to fill that spot, adding that those behind the project understand the historic importance of one of Cleveland's oldest bars. Williams, for his part, is honored to be a part of this legendary club's story.
"Obviously, we're business people who want to grow our brand and make money," says Williams. "But we also want to be part of the revitalization of Cleveland and save some of that great history. I love that there are so many people who say, 'I remember going to the Euclid Tavern for this show or that.'"
That towering, classic sign must stay put, all agree.
"We would love to somehow keep — and University Circle would want us to keep — the name Euclid Tavern because of its historic and neighborhood value," Williams adds. "It's a great sign, and we hope to keep it. We're thinking something along the lines of Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern."
After getting the keys on December 1, Williams says that job one will involve a lot of elbow grease, cleaning and reorganization of the space.
"It's a total shithole," he admits. "This is probably one of the worst spots I've taken over. It's really bad."
When all is said and done, Happy Dog East will function much like its west-side sibling, with hot dogs, veggie dogs, fries and tots. A new 40-tap beer system will keep the craft beer flowing.
As for the music and entertainment, Williams says that the location in Cleveland's cultural epicenter allows him and his partners to program events in a new and exciting way.
"We can do more diverse music and entertainment projects here," he says. "We think the location lends itself to a more world music stage."
The stage, forever centered in the second room, will be moved to the front of the building. The team is bringing in the "sound guy from the Black Keys" to completely redo the sound system. A back room will be turned into a second dining room and arcade with games like shuffleboard and classic pinball machines. A basement room with a smaller bar will be used as a "green room/party room/overflow dining/speakeasy," according to Williams.
Given the neighborhood, lunch service might be added down the road.
As for how soon we can expect to wrap our hands around an east-side happy hot dog, Williams says: "If we can open by March 1, we will. If we can open February 1, we will."