John Barr purchased the bar that would become Nighttown in 1965 for $23,000. At the time, it was a single storefront bar called the Silhouette Lounge. Barr changed the name to Nighttown after the red-light district in James Joyce’s Ulysses. Over the next 50 years, the operation expanded – in both directions and spilling outside onto covered patios – to the 400-seat restaurant and jazz club it is today. Along the way it became one of the nation’s best live jazz clubs, Cleveland’s finest restaurants, and Cleveland Heights’ most beloved watering holes.
Barr passed away last night at the age of 87.
In 2000, Brendan Ring, who had worked at the bar since 1993, purchased the business from his boss and mentor Barr. Since then, Ring has followed in his previous employer's footsteps by providing the same warm service and hospitality that we all have come to expect from Nighttown.
Ring posted some of the following words on his Facebook page after learning of Barr’s passing:
“It is with great sadness that my mentor and life educator and the reason why Nighttown exists passed away tonight."
“John and I differed in opinion in the last few years but he will always be my hero and absolutely the reason why Nighttown was born and exists today and forever.”
“I’m deeply saddened tonight.”
“John, I thank you for everything you did for all the people that have ever worked at Nighttown. My crowd and staff only 25 years in. You had north of 50. As we say in Ireland, Your likes will never be seen again.”
John Barr, a true Cleveland pioneer, will be missed.