First-time operator Thomas Russo thinks that now is the time for a new piano bar and that Lakewood is the right place to open it. He’s been hard at work converting the old Detroiter (and World of Beer) space along that suburb’s busy restaurant row into Ivory Keys (14701 Detroit Ave.), a dueling piano bar. He expects to have it open by the middle of December.
You can save Russo your jokes about the 1990s, Zima and fanny packs; he’s heard them all. And while Howl at the Moon is no longer in Cleveland, it had a good, long run in the Flats. That concept, as we all know, was followed up by The Big Bang
, which has been amusing tipsy bachelorettes since it opened two years ago.
“Howl at the Moon is still around in various states and so are other companies like Sing Sing in Pennsylvania,” he explains. “It’s moving back this way. Just look at Big Bang down in the Flats. Live entertainment, if done right, brings people in.”
Like those other entertainment venues, Ivory Keys will feature the typical setup of a pair of grand piano shells equipped with digital keyboards, a drum kit, and special sound and lighting systems. Guests are given request forms and pencils to write down the names of songs like Friends in Low Places, Mustang Sally and September.
But unlike those facilities, Ivory Keys will not charge a cover fee and will fly in national talent as opposed to relying on the same rotating squad of regular performers, Russo says.
“This will be way different from places like Big Bang because I will have different acts flying in from all over the country – not the same three guys,” he points out. “Some of these guys have their own following.”
The piano bar format will run Thursday through Saturday nights. The other nights will be fueled by live entertainment of other sorts, be it music or comedy. While World of Beer served no food, the Detroiter owners added a kitchen. That kitchen, under Russo’s management, will serve a menu of Italian soups, salads and entrees.
When he’s done with it, the space will have a “modern but retro feel” with lots of room for standing. “I want people to interact,” he says.
Which is a characteristic typically lacking from your average bar, he adds.
“Bars are kind of boring; you sit there, look at a TV, and hope that some girls walk in,” he says. “There are a lot of great bars downtown, but I want to bring something different to Lakewood.”