Bar profile: Whitt’s End seeks South Side revival without losing neighborhood character

From the July 17, 2014 edition

Since its soft opening in April, Whitt’s End Saloon has gone through substantial changes — but managers Amanda Fannin and Angela Lenhard admit it’s still a work in progress: The same can be said for the community surrounding it.

Located at 970 Parsons Ave. in the space that once housed The Avenue Bar, the duo is working to overcome the stigma attached to the space’s seedy past and contribute to the neighborhood’s restoration, while maintaining the bar’s “delightfully low-brow” appeal.

“We wanted to participate in the revitalization of the area and be a business the community could be proud of,” Fannin said on a recent Monday afternoon. “But the point isn’t to make this bar like [one you would find] in the Short North. We are rough around the edges, and we like it that way. The roughness is the beauty.”

Free darts and pool, and $3 craft brews, juxtaposed by a trend-forward craft-cocktail list illustrate Fannin and Lenhard’s vision for Whitt’s End Saloon: A sophisticated drink selection priced-right in an unpretentious atmosphere. Karaoke, acoustic shows and trivia currently populate Whitt’s End Saloon’s weekly calendar; drag performances will eventually be added to the line-up, too.

“This place has done a huge 180-degree turn. We still want to keep it a little hood, but safe,” Lenhard said. “We are all here to have a good time. We’ve been able to turn it around without turning the neighborhood residents away.”

As a former long-time resident of the South Side, Fannin has a vested-interest in making Parsons Avenue a safer destination for both neighborhood locals and visiting bar-hoppers. In an effort to accomplish this, Whitt’s End Saloon has partnered with Ganthers Place, a neighborhood organization and blockwatch, and will be a featured stop on the Ganthers Place Garden Tour on July 27.

“We understand some bad things happened before [at The Avenue], but Parsons isn’t what you think anymore,” Fannin said. “There is never a dull moment, but you don’t have to worry about your safety. We are over-coming bad stigma with good management.”

Whitt’s End Saloon’s grand opening is slated for Aug. 1-3 and will consist of karaoke on Friday, a live acoustic set on Saturday and a drag performance on Sunday.

“If we can get you here, the prices and atmosphere will keep you here because this place speaks for itself,” Lenhard said. “If you want to take a walk on the wild side, come over to Parsons Ave.”

Photo by Meghan Ralston