It’s enough to make Moses Cleaveland do a triple-take. The city’s founding father, who landed at Settler’s Landing in the Flats in 1796, would be floored by what the banks of the Cuyahoga River have become. Known for its vibrant nightlife, the area is filled with bars and clubs hosting live music and comedy shows, as well as beer gardens and dining options for every appetite.
But even more, Flats’ entertainment venues serve as an economic engine for the entire region.
“You see a lot of cities around the country making use of the water they are on, but we are fortunate to be on both a Great Lake and a river,” says David Gilbert, president and CEO of Destination Cleveland. “Nothing is more important for the future of our community than taking care of our greatest assets, which are on the water.”
One of the newest entertainment venues is also serving as an anchor to an entirely new Flats neighborhood, the Scranton Peninsula. BrewDog Cleveland Outpost is an incredible bar with more than 28 taps pouring a mix of BrewDog and other local craft brewers. It has an awesome patio with river views. There are also fire pits for those colder nights in football season, which are not that far off.
BrewDog opened its doors last December to a large crowd, including many of the community leaders who regularly grace the pages of this magazine. It also employs more than 75 people, who enjoy a corporate policy that includes a 50% profit share with employees who work in its bars, according to Erika Wojno, BrewDog’s U.S. director of marketing.
“We chose Cleveland because Ohio is our home market,” Wojno says. “Being a huge sports city with a solid beer drinking culture, we knew BrewDog would fit in. We’re proud to be an Ohio company, and we’re excited to have a presence.”
But Scranton Peninsula also offered plenty of space.
“The Scranton Peninsula allowed us enough space to build a sizeable patio overlooking the river,” Wojno says. “The waterfront is a great addition to an already amazing building. We were able to incorporate our personality into the existing exposed brick and concrete columns. It’s truly a great place to have a beer and enjoy the waterfront action.”
And during the weekends, that action can be considerable.
“With our patio open, we can accommodate more guests than what you saw at our grand opening,” says Kevin Gilliam, general manager of BrewDog Cleveland Outpost. “On an average Friday or Saturday, our guest counts can be anywhere from 500 to 700 guests.”
Perhaps more importantly, those crowds keep BrewDog’s Greater Cleveland employees gainfully employed.
“And because we are close to the rapid and RTA stations, it’s only about a 10-minute walk here,” says Gilliam. “We have people coming here from East Cleveland, as well as West Siders, Lorain and Medina. We also have employeess who make the commute from as far away as Akron.”
When the company first scouted Scranton Peninsula, it was all about, “location, location, location,” Gilliam says. “We wanted the waterfront, but we also wanted a place where we could offer ample parking.”
Now, BrewDog is looking forward to future residential developments, which would build a local audience like what has already happened in Flats East and West. One of the hallmarks of Downtown Cleveland Alliance (DCA) has always been the development of downtown sustainable urban neighborhoods.
“And you have that in the Flats right now on the East and West banks,” says Michael Deemer, president and CEO of DCA. “The future of the Flats is clearly in mixed-use development like you already see, as well as in future development like what is happening on the Scranton Peninsula.”
Still, it’s the entertainment factor that draws everyone to the Flats.
“The Flats East Bank offers visitors a wide variety of entertainment options and access to the riverfront, which helps bring outside dollars into our city’s central core,” says Gilbert.
So when you visit one of the many entertainment venues in the Fats, you are actually doing your civic duty, which has never been a more pleasant task. The Flats are also a great place to mix business and pleasure.
“I am going to a meeting at the end of the day at Merwin’s Wharf, and my son and wife are meeting me there afterward,” says Gilbert. “From there, we plan on going to Edgewater. A lot of cities don’t have that luxury, being on a lake and a river.”
Flats East Bank is home to myriad entertainment and dining choices. A tasteful homage to the comfort food for which New England is known mixed with a flair that’s pure southern California, Alley Cat Oyster Bar is the ideal spot for patrons to drink in the beauty of the Cleveland shoreline while dining on oysters, chowder and entrees that include lobster rolls, bass, salmon and walleye.
Check into Marriott’s boutique Aloft Cleveland Downtown and enjoy high-tech amenities, including a fitness center, convenience store and 42-inch LCD TVs. While there, enjoy classic Italian fare — Salerno family meatballs, lobster gnocchi, risotto, cannoli and tiramisu — along with libations that include sangria, spicy kiwi margaritas and Great Lakes Brewing Co. and BrewDog favorites at Lago, a family-owned restaurant that’s been a city tradition for late-night snacks and romantic dinners since 2006.
Boats, barges and bridges are among the bill of fare at Beerhead Bar & Eatery. Known for its “corner bar feel,” the emporium features stunning views of the lakeshore and a menu of sandwiches and pizza accompanied by 50 taps and an extensive assortment of bottled import, specialty and American craft beers presided over by beer pros who help patrons discover flavors that suit their tastes. Beer U classes provide an enjoyable introduction to the wild, wonderful and ever-changing world of hops and barley.
Billed as “Cleveland’s hottest night club,” Inferno features pizza and subs; top-shelf rum, vodka, whisky, tequila, scotch, champagne, nonalcoholic Red Bull drinks and VIP bottle service accompanied by tunes spun by Cleveland’s hottest DJs.
Get ready for a good time like no other at Punch Bowl Social, a 27,000-square-foot lounge that’s legendary for the multiple bars serving craft cocktails and punches, a scratch-kitchen menu and games galore, including billiards, foosball and karaoke.
It won’t take long to get your groove back at Good Night John Boy, a funky 1970s-era dive bar that serves up dancing, pizza, beer and groovy vibes.
In Cleveland’s Margaritaville, the taste-of-the-tropics ambiance includes a flowing margarita machine, an indoor/outdoor 5 O’clock Somewhere Bar and a menu featuring crab cakes, Beach Club sandwiches, key lime pie and picture-worthy views of Lake Erie.
Named for the powerful commercial ships that traverse the crooked passages of the Cuyahoga River, Collision Bend Brewing Co. showcases a generous happy hour libation menu from 3 to 6 p.m.; crisp, bright artisanal beers brewed on site; and a menu featuring sandwiches, pizzas, desserts and brunch specials crafted with locally sourced ingredients. Live music takes center stage with upcoming shows that include Emily & Ivory and Katie K, performing folk, rock and gospel on Aug. 12; favorite tunes by cover band the Beams on Aug. 19; rock ‘n’ roll classics courtesy of the Smug Saints on Aug. 26; traditional blues with a fresh twist by Stamper Starr on Aug. 28; Apostle Jones rock and soul favorites on Sept. 16; and high-energy pop-punk band Jurassic Punk and Rage Against the Machine tribute band Down Rodeo on Sept. 23.
Farm-to-table favorites make Lindey’s Lake House a family-friendly place to embrace a casual, laid-back vibe that includes small plates, pizzas and grilled specialties.
Catch a ride on the Water Taxi, and you’ll find even more fun. Tucked away in the historic FirstEnergy Powerhouse, Greater Cleveland Aquarium offers visitors the chance to get up close and personal with sea life in a variety of habitats. See a spotted turtle, channel catfish and shovelnose sturgeon from Ohio lakes and rivers; a frilled lizard, giant gourami and banded archerfish from Asia and Indonesia; red-belled piranha, matamata and poison dart frogs from tropical forests; and cownose stingray, potbelly sea horse and moon jellyfish from a coastal boardwalk environment.
Register for upcoming events that include Virtual Freshwater Exhibit Encounters on Aug. 9 at 4 p.m., Sept. 7 at 3:30 p.m. and Oct. 3 at 4:30 p.m., which include online guided tours of exhibits featuring animals native to Ohio, Asia and Indonesia, followed by a question-and-answer session. Virtual Shark Exhibit Encounters on Aug. 9 at 3 p.m., Sept. 7 at 4:30 p.m. and Oct. 3 at 3:30 p.m. describe how the aquarium cares for the sharks, eels, stingrays and other ocean fish residing in the 230,000-gallon exhibit.
Cruise the Cuyahoga in style aboard the Nautica Queen for a day or evening of dining and sightseeing featuring majestic views of bridges and the Lake Erie coastline. All cruises include an unlimited buffet meal with beef, ham, the chef’s catch of the day, seasonal fruits, vegetables and beverages, as well as musical entertainment.
Since opening in 1987, Shooters on the Water has earned an iconic reputation as a premier place to spend the summer in Cleveland. Accompanying a menu of fare ranging from burgers and nachos to pasta and perch is a lineup of live entertainment for every taste. Upcoming shows include video and light shows with VJ Impulse from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday nights through Sept. 2, as well as live performances by the Panama Van Halen Tribute on Aug. 14, Wanted Bon Jovi Tribute on Aug. 21 and Disco Inferno on Aug. 28.
Next door to Shooters, the laughs never end at Cleveland Improv Comedy Theater & Restaurant, where the best comedians touring today take the stage. Upcoming shows for the 21-and-over crowd feature Lavar Walker, Sept. 30 through Oct. 2; Tony Rock, Oct. 7 through 9; and Alycia Cooper, Oct. 21 and 22. Partake of the club’s contemporary American menu ranging from strip steaks to burgers on the spacious outdoor patio located on the Cuyahoga River.
From live music to captivating tales of Cleveland’s past and present, Music Box Supper Club has become a gathering place for all since it opened in 2014. Two stages — a downstairs Supper Club and an upstairs Concert Hall — play host to touring musicians, as well as local Northeast Ohio talent. The upcoming playbill includes Sunday brunches featuring live tributes to Elton John on Aug. 7 and the Carpenters on Aug. 14. The Prince Project takes the stage at 8 p.m. on Aug. 12, followed by Sinatra Night on Aug. 19 at 7 p.m. and a Santana Tribute by Evil Ways Band on Aug. 26 at 8 p.m.
Once a lodging house for Irish sailors and longshoremen working on the Great Lakes, the Flat Iron Cafe enjoys a storied history that began in 1910 and continues today with traditional Emerald Isle fare such as meat loaf and mashed potatoes on Mondays, corned beef and cabbage on Wednesdays and Lake Erie yellow perch on Fridays. Live music is featured every Friday night, and free shuttle service is available to Guardians and Browns games for parties of eight or more patrons.
Situated along the Cuyahoga River, the open-air Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica amphitheater hosts acclaimed luminaries including Goo Goo Dolls on Aug. 10 and ALICIA The World Tour on Aug. 19.
It’s all waiting for you in the Flats, Cleveland’s preeminent entertainment destination.