MAKE THEM STAY: Take my advice, bars

You’re going to give us something that no other Columbus-area bar offers.

I’ve heard that promise a lot.

So much, in fact, that my cynical side often responds with a silent, “Yeah right. In two months, you’ll be serving Bud Light and hosting a cover band that specializes in Matchbox 20.”

There’s nothing wrong with bar owners’ lofty goals.

But in their quest to be the No. 1 party destination, new bars sometimes resemble a candidate for sixth-grade class president.

Except they’re promising cheap drinks, rather than nachos and pizza in the school cafeteria.

Downtown Columbus has two new hot spots — Eighty-Five and a new incarnation of Club 1244.

Club 1244 was previously an urban club. Under new ownership, its three floors are now designed to attract a variety of nightlife tastes.

There’s the Whiskey River Live Bar, as well as space for partiers looking for a dance club atmosphere. When it opens, the third level is slated to be a cigar and martini bar.

As it attempts to build a following, the Broadway bar will lure guests not only with its diverse party offerings, but also with the promise of no cover charge.

Then, there’s Eighty-Five. It boasts a mix of ’80s, alternative and indie music.

The hot spot, which sits below Belloo’s on Front Avenue, celebrates its grand opening Friday with a performance by Col. Bruce Hampton and the Quark Alliance. Doors open at 7 p.m. and a $5 cover starts at 9 p.m.

Are the new bars destined to fall into the trap of predictability? Hardly. They have an intrigue factor working in their favor.

It’s the time of year when partiers want to vary their nightlife routines.

Nobody knows how Eighty-Five and the new Club 1244 will ultimately fit into our city’s late-night dynamic.

But as bars across town attempt to stand out from the competition, it’s important to remember what works in the party world.

Consider these tips, hot spots:

Know your niche. Nobody wants a too-narrow following, but billing yourself as the “grunge/pop/folk/hip-hop/indie bar” only confuses potential guests.

Go the extra mile. An enticing promotion loses its appeal when it’s executed halfheartedly. Don’t invite me to ’70s night if your decor will only consist of a plastic peace sign.

Charge cautiously. A small cover charge is fine — assuming your entertainment is good enough to justify it. Otherwise, I’m not wasting my cash.

Network. Maybe you don’t want to have a phone in your bar. Fine. But please, at least collect fans and update us on your events via MySpace, Facebook or Twitter — preferably all of the above.

And don’t give me the “technology is hard” line. If you can make a decent martini, you can type 140 characters or less.

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