New Downtown bar Shooks wants people to 'cut loose and dance'

Posted at 10:55 AM, Mar 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-08 15:28:57-05

CINCINNATI -- Steve Swartz wants people to do more than drink when he opens his bar Shooks this spring at 920 Race St., Downtown.

“We are hoping to catch a wide variety of all kinds of people in here,” said Swartz. “There’s not many places around here where people can come in off the street, after a game or before or dressed up or not, and come in and have fun and cut loose and dance -- whatever you want to do.”

Shooks, which will have a capacity of about 300 people, will feature a dance floor, stage and two bars. The bars will have 15 beers on tap and focus on mixed drinks such as bucks, a type of mule made with ginger beer and citrus juice; Champagne cocktails like royals, made with a sweet liqueur topped with sparkling Champagne; and a variety of alcoholic teas, including Long Islands.

“Our price point will be a little lower than the average as well,” Swartz said.

Shooks will initially open only on weekends with DJs playing a mix of Top 40 dance music on Friday and Saturday nights. Swartz said there are plans to expand Shooks' hours to include weekdays, with live bands and genre-based music nights.

“We’re going to a honky-tonk, rockabilly kind of country night like Wednesday or Thursday,” he said.

Swartz, who described Shooks as an “old-school industrial” type of place, said the bar drew inspiration for its name and decor from its location.

“The back half of this building up to 1915 was connected to a warehouse space of sorts where a company produced whiskey barrels, crates and pallets,” he said.

That company would bundle its products in parts called “shooks" before shipping them. Its industrial history is also why the bar’s interior includes chipped ceilings, mostly unfinished walls, stained concrete flooring and raw wood furniture.

Swartz partnered on Shooks with longtime Cincinnati businessman Fred Berger, who owns the four-story property built in 1910. The pair started remodeling the property last fall.

“We’re kind of melding his experience and my experience,” Swartz said.

Berger previously owned the Warehouse, an Over-the-Rhine nightclub on Vine Street that closed in 2004.

Swartz has worked in the craft cocktail industry as a former supervisor at Japp’s Since 1879 in Over-the-Rhine and general manager at Bromwell's HARTH Lounge in downtown Cincinnati. Swartz also owns the Scholfield Hospitality Group with business partner Mike Bowling.

Businesses and community groups will be able to reserve Shooks for events during non-business hours.

“Everyone is doing the craft cocktail thing, which is good for our city. But I want to get back to being simplistic but also satisfying to the person coming in,” Swartz said. “We’re going to have a nice selection of beer. Our spirits selection will also be smaller than a lot of the places opening up. That way we can really focus on the older mentality of bars around here, too.”

Shooks will join Court Street craft beer bar Queen City Exchange, which opened a block away at 32 W. Court St. in October. Shooks also will be located next to Northside Distilling Co., which hopes to open its tasting room in April, according to head distiller Chris Courts.

"This section we are in has been really welcoming," Courts said. "The businesses around us that are up and coming have been really encouraging, and I think we are all working toward the same goal of bridging the gap between where you work (Downtown) and where you play (Over-the-Rhine)."

Swartz agreed.

"The plan is build these places up here," he said. "If we can connect them together with the streetcar and spots, that will be great. I think if we can be successful around here to bring Downtown and the Banks and Over-the-Rhine together along the way, it makes the city more walkable."