Bar Profile: Circus reinvents itself as a restaurant and bar

  • Photos by Meghan Ralston
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From the April 10, 2014 edition

Circus Restaurant & Bar may be in the same big top, but the show has completely changed.

After a major face-lift, a new concept and a completely different staff, the only thing that hasn’t changed at the storied High Street haunt is the location.

“We wanted to create a place where everybody could go. People come to bars to get happy, we want everybody to feel at home here,” said new bar manager Mike Moffo.

The once dive-y Circus was known for EDM parties and live music. The new Circus’ line-up will include everything from drag shows to piano sing-a-longs.

“It got to the point where every bar was doing EDM dance parties and bands,” co-owner Ron “Red” Ringle said. “If we wanted to survive, we had to change things.”

A new bar, cathedral-themed light fixtures and ornate wood liquor shelves update the spot’s overall vibe. An entire second shelving unit was brought in to accommodate the expanded bar selection, including a slew of flavored vodkas and some rare Jameson finds. A full menu offering brunch, wings, flatbreads, burgers and steak make the kitchen a prominent draw for patrons. Basically, the only thing that hasn’t changed is the bathrooms, which are next.

For Ringle and Moffo, the hardest part of the overhaul was drawing new customers without alienating the die-hards.

“People don’t want change, and I get that,” Moffo said. “But [the old Circus] was broken. If we hadn’t changed it, somebody else would have.”

The new bar staff was a particular point of contention for the old Circus’ regular client base.

“Being unable to keep more of the original bar staff is my only regret,” Moffo said. “But the owners wanted new faces to accompany the new concept, and the bartenders we have on board are some of the best in the city.”

According to Moffo, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“A lot of [the original regulars] wanted to hate it. In fact, they came in and told me they expected to hate it, but then said it was their new favorite spot. I guess that speaks to what we’re doing here,” Moffo said. “If the people who wanted to hate it are calling it their new favorite bar, something is working.”