There have been bars built around live music. Many others have been constructed as temples to craft beer and cocktails. And there certainly is no shortage of those that cater to sports and the people who live (and die) by them. But when Jukebox, a City Tavern opens early next year in Ohio City, it might be the first that places prime importance on that electronic apparatus in the corner of the room that plays recorded music.
Alex Budin, a self-described music snob, describes his music-focused bar as "a place where people can expect to hear and learn about music of multiple genres, all of which is concentrated in a constantly evolving jukebox."
Located in the Striebinger Block building of the newly coined Hingetown neighborhood, Jukebox aims to be the missing piece of the puzzle for that percolating corner of Ohio City. When Hingetown developers Graham Veysey and Marika Shioiri-Clark met Budin and heard about his concept, which he'd been developing for months, they knew immediately it was the perfect fit.
"We have been very deliberate in how we wanted to program the entire building," Veysey explains. "Rising Star [Coffee] opens at 6:30 a.m., and all these other shops will bring people here throughout the day, but what are you doing to carry the evening and night hours? That's a void that Alex will fill."
For the past four years, Budin, who grew up in Chagrin Falls, was managing a popular bar and restaurant in Chicago. In college, he hosted an album-oriented radio show, where history and commentary were a large part of the equation. Jukebox, like that radio program, will do more than entertain guests with music; it will educate them about music.
"We hope that the jukebox will be interactive and educational," explains Budin, 29, who is in the process of moving to Ohio City. "Interactive in the sense that people not only can play the selections, but also have a voice in what gets added to it. I look at the jukebox as the city's iPod."
The 100-CD jukebox will feature the music of various Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted musicians, beginning in the '50s and running clear through modern indie rock and hip-hop. "Anything from Marvin Gaye's What's Going On to Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, and everything that falls in between," he explains. "Things that I like and think my customers will like."
The monthly selections will be described at length in a document — a music menu, of sorts — that guests can read to learn more about the groups and albums, complete with recommended tracks. Budin envisions regular new-music nights, when a new record is played in its entirety alongside a complementary old record. Local music venues like the Grog Shop or Beachland might appropriate sections within the jukebox to highlight the music of bands coming to town. A fresh crop of albums might coincide with the opening of a new Rock Hall exhibit.
Following a full-scale build-out that will include a bar, small kitchen, bathrooms and expansive rear patio, the space at 1404 W. 29th Street will open in the first quarter of 2014. The 1,350-square-foot double storefront, formerly Ohio City Café and a portion of the Tool Shed, will seat approximately 65, with room for more on the front sidewalk and rear patio.
In order of importance, Budin places food in the rear, behind the music and the drinks. He'll offer a few flatbreads, but says that guests are more than welcome to bring food with them or order in. When it comes to the liquid assets, guests can look forward to local craft beer, cocktails and a small list of white and red wines. "This is not the place for people to get a cheap PBR," he says, adding that the target demo is neighborhood folks in the 25-to-40 bracket.
"I look at Jukebox as two distinct models," he says. "In one sense, it's a music-themed bar. In another, it's a neighborhood tavern. The venues on W. 25th Street are a destination for the whole city. I'm hoping that this becomes a destination for Ohio City residents."
For Veysey, who already has flushed out Hingetown with a coffee roaster, tea café, hair salon, juice bar, fitness studio and doggie boutique, Jukebox is one more way to activate a previously underutilized area of the city — one that just so happens to link Ohio City's Market District with Detroit Shoreway's Gordon Square.
"Right now, Cleveland's this giant sandbox," says Veysey. "And when you get to jump in the sandbox with like-minded folks who are doing cool shit, it's really exciting. We're doing it in one pocket of the city, but it's happening in other pockets, too. What's important is that we're connecting those elements and making sure that as a city we're continuing that momentum."
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