Not all bars and nightclubs cater only to the 20-something crowd. As club owners know, the kids buy beer but the adults buy the mixed drinks and bottles of wine, where they really make their money. To bring in the moneyed crowd, many club owners put on theme nights and among the most popular are those which in décor, music and style harken back to the golden age of rock and roll, the dance-crazed days of disco or the outlandish eras of metal, punk and hair bands. Here are five places in Connecticut where patrons can go to relive or experience for the first time such “retro nights.”
103 Pratt St.
Hartford, CT 06103
Owner Hugh Russell likes to think of his club as “a cozy hotel bar in the Caribbean,” but one with comfy couches and easy chairs rather than rattan beach furniture. Weekly live events and special nights, such as “Love Jones Experience” open-mike Mondays and “Dance Mix” and “Old School Saturdays,” are his way of welcoming back a generation that grew up on R&B, soul and disco. A Caribbean/Gulf-themed restaurant before 9 p.m. (jerk chicken, cajun blackened tilapia, etc.), the Russell after 9 p.m. is several stories of partying from the patio-like ground floor with its large windows to the first floor bar and up to the more private areas of the mezzanine. More classy than clubby, The Russell is a bar for all seasons and eras.
102 Hamilton St.
New Haven, CT 06511
A top spot for Latin-fueled “cumbia-bachata-merengue” salsa, The Elm City’s Club Vandome is also noted for its theme nights. Vandome boasts weekly karaoke contests and “Hookahs on the Patio” Fridays, as well as “State of Sundays” techno-trance electronica dances and “Saturday with the Residents Laptop Symphony” in the warehouse. Established in 1996, the club is also famous for its signature drink, the 1950’s Chinese-restaurant/tiki-bar inspired flaming Scorpion Bowl – a massive cocktail meant to be shared by two, especially on “Tropical Tuesdays.”
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203 Church St.
Naugatuck, CT 06770
“Cook’s rocks,” says owner Mark Cook, who calls his place “the home of rock and roll” in Connecticut. Celebrating 14 years this October, Cook’s hosts not only big names but also tribute bands and theme nights. With a combination of major acts, light shows, “plenty of room for dancing” and free pool in the game room, Cook’s does indeed rock. As Cook himself likes to say, at his place, “the variety of rock is endless!”
300 York St.
New Haven, CT 06511
While “Kung Fu’s Christmas Spectacular” is obviously a one-night event, “Toad’s has been hoppin’” as the club website proudly proclaims every night “since 1975.” Host to many big-name acts, this live music club also puts on a weekly “Saturday Night Dance Party” complete with laser light show and makes its Lilly’s Pad room available for parties. Its DJs, bands and acts offer a wide variety of progressive house, electro, hip-hop, top 40, club classics and “Old Skool” music, but Toad’s also books a good number of jazz musicians for classic coffee-house music nights.
960 Main St.
Hartford, CT 06013
Whether it is “Reggae Sundays,” “We Run Wednesdays,” “Revolution Thursdays,” “Ultra-Saturdays” or special one-night-only events like the 1980’s “Mustache Party,” Hartford’s Room 960 on Main Street is the theme king of the capital city’s nightlife circuit. There are “Shag Frenzy” nights where patrons are encouraged to dress like cast members from “Saturday Night Fever” and the “Austin Powers” movies and many other events that turn the club from Room 960 to Studio 960. The club boasts of having the best-known DJs in the region and of being visited by numerous rappers, rockers and even well-known recording stars. The club has “huge video screens, a wild light show and a custom EAW sound system” that help transform the venue into whatever theme the DJs or other artists want for the night.
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