Nighttown, the iconic jazz nightclub and restaurant at Cedar Road near Fairmount Boulevard has been sold to a group of investors for an undisclosed price.
Brendan Ring, who owned Nighttown from 2001 until its sale, told the Cleveland Jewish News Jan. 5 he could not reveal the names of the investors who bought Nighttown, the apartments above it and the three properties he owns adjacent to it: a former bakery, a hair salon building and a former bank that is being converted to a drive-through Chipotle.
“I think when these guys came in, they saw the value of Nighttown and they saw the value of Chipotle,” Ring said. “It was a difficult negotiation, but in the end, we got there, just on New Year’s Eve.”
He did say that there is a “strong Jewish presence” within the group.
Nighttown, Ring said, will continue as a restaurant, and the owners are negotiating with a Cleveland chef, whom he described as “one of the top five chefs in Cleveland.”
“I’m very excited for him to be taking over from me because I respect him greatly,” Ring said. “He’s a great guy and he’s a great chef.”
Ring said he called each of his employees before announcing the sale to the press and attempted to reach about 60 more people to let them know the news prior to its public release.
He said Nighttown’s patron mix was largely Jewish.
“I always say Yom Kippur is the slowest day at Nighttown,” Ring said. “And that’s true. You could shoot a cannon in there on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, so that’ll tell you about how deep our roots are in the Jewish community.”
The Press Club of Cleveland houses its hall of fame at Nighttown. The hall of fame includes former CJN Editor Cynthia Dettelbach and longtime CJN reporter and Cavalcade columnist Violet Spevack.
“We have enjoyed and appreciated our longstanding relationship with Nighttown as the host of our Hall of Fame display,” Denise Polverine, president of the press club said in a Jan. 5 statement. “As ownership is changing hands, our board’s executive committee will soon discuss the future of this valuable and historic display with the new owners to learn of their interest in retaining our presence there and what our options are.”
Ring, 57, is a native of County Kerry, Ireland. He went to New York City as an engineering student, met the woman who would become his wife and came to Cleveland after she had a job transfer to Ohio.
He said he did not initially like Cleveland and decided to keep his apartment in New York City, which he still owns, in addition to a home in Bratenahl.
He became a bartender at Nighttown in 1992, became the general manager a year later and bought the business in 2001. He later bought Zoss the Swiss Baker and in March purchased the former Fifth Third Bank building, the soon-to-be Chipotle, for $525,000.
The bakery is now home to offices for the Top of the Hill project, an $83 million mixed-use development at the top of Cedar hill.
Ring said he has signed a non-compete contract, “so I won’t be doing anything nearby Nighttown.”
First on his agenda is a trip to Italy at his wife’s request.
He said he will not so much miss the big-name musicians who performed at Nighttown as much as the patrons.
“Entire generations have grown up with Nighttown and you know I’ve held their memorial services, their bar mitzvahs, their communions, their weddings,” he said. “I often used to say at Nighttown you could have just as easily be sitting next to a billionaire or a plumber. … And I hope the new owners understand that and keep that, don’t make it too exclusive for any one group.”
The business opened in 1965.
Publisher's Note: Cleveland Jewish News Publisher and CEO Kevin S. Adelstein serves on the executive committee of The Press Club of Cleveland.