Brews News

Northside Bar: Live in the Present with the Feel of the Past

Hallie Witwer
As the years have gone by, I’m slowly beginning to find myself tiring of trashy bars with tasteless drinks and bad music. Luckily, Northside came into my life recently. Being one of the oldest music venues in Akron, it has had years to perfect itself. The building was constructed in 1914; opening its door as a watering hole, and remains a bar to this day. Originally called Cavanaugh’s and owned by the Burkhart Consolidate Company, by 1924, live music and gambling became regular occurrences within the venue. While it’s lost the gambling aspect (though who knows, it could be making a return within the short future), live music is really what Northside is famous for. After an ownership change in 1995 involving Becker’s owner Rockne Becker and then partner Michael Owen the bar saw the name change that has stuck to this day. All it took was my first visit to Northside and I was immediately snagged and knew that I would be a returning attendee, never to be bored again.

As I made my way into the red brick building with the located next to the ever delicious and seemingly always open Luigi’s off North Main St., the art work lining each wall amused my eyes, as some of their signature live music entertained my ears. A large black and white painting of a jazz band acted as the backdrop of the stage. It’s the place where jazz legends Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and so many others used to strike up their bands as well as the Rubber City crowds. It’s kind of overwhelming to think about and the picture seemed to boldly exist as a reminder of the remarkable bands and performers that have graced that very stage over the decades.

However, this isn’t just another bustling bar with a deep history and a nostalgic stage. If you’re looking for something more “artsy” than a live, loud band, Northside offers all brothers and sisters bohemia so much more. One such highlight is the poetry (Yes. You heard me correct. Poetry at a bar). Particularly cool- the father of Akron’s own Dan Auerbach (of Black Keys fame) has been known to read his poetry there during, now infamous, open mic nights. If you’re working on exposing your own musical talents to the Akron area, I definitely recommend showing up for an open mic night. Aside from poetic justice and all the live music you can handle, there are even dance workshops offered from time to time. Art shows also take place there (as if they hadn’t covered an impressive span of creative arts already). If you live in Northeast Ohio and want it all, Northside seems to be the place to be.

A stage large enough to hold a seven piece band sits in front of an area cleared of tables and chairs so patrons can dance their hearts out, which they certainly did during my visit. With a local funk band called Get On Up blasting out the classics through brass, keys, and strings, Northside took on the feel of an underground club from the 1970’s where everyone who was anyone went to just let loose. As I danced to each funk hit, memories flooded my brain. I realized that it was places like this that really brought people together. This was a bar that anyone could find something to appreciate. Everyone was having “that night,” one looks forward to all week. There wasn’t even a crying drunk girl in sight which, in a bar at 1 am, is usually a token feature.

While the venue was extremely packed, the bartenders managed to take orders and serve drinks in a timely manner, which is always a plus for Buckeye’s trying to get their drink on. No one wants to miss out on half a band’s set list just because they want one more beer. Northside offers both indoor and outdoor seating. So if you’re looking for a cool drink outdoors in the summer or an escape for a quick cigarette in the winter, you’re left with room to spare. If the munchies hit at anytime throughout the evening, never fear. Try out the food that tastes great and won’t break your wallet. They offer appetizers at $2-$4, sandwiches are just $3-$5, and soups and salads run $1.50-$4.

As for the dress code, I mentioned the bohemian lifestyle before for a reason. Northside isn’t just a place for the artsy-fartsy or fast-paced businessman looking for a few drinks to unwind, and it’s certainly not just for those who love music. Northside bar is for everyone. Just when I thought bars were starting to represent nothing other than frat boys and rap music, Northside reminded me of the benefits of a night out, without the hassle and drama of a lot of other places. After some good music, good people, (many drinks) and a great night, I highly look forward to my next trip to the Northside bar in Akron.

*Hours: Monday through Saturday 4 pm to 2:30 am. Closed Sundays.
* Image from Google Images