A father and daughter duo brings diverse entertainment to the South Side
The building at 1570 S. High St. has taken many forms throughout the decades. During the '30s, '40s and '50s, it operated as the Southland Theatre. More recently, it housed the Restoration Christian Center. Today, it is Club Voodoos, a month-old bar and music venue. But it almost took a different name.
“I was originally going to name the bar White Buffalo Saloon,” said owner Don Caldwell. He was overruled by his daughter, Michelle Runyon, who manages the establishment. Luckily, he found inspiration while watching a voodoo-themed movie on the Turner Classic Movies network.
“‘Voodoos' seems to have caught on. Everybody loves the advertisement,” he said. “There's no way you can miss that sign if you're driving down High Street.”
The eye-catching sign, featuring a grinning, cigar-smoking skeleton in a top-hat, beckons patrons into a spacious venue with shiny wood floors and a high ceiling. Sapphire lighting accentuates the bar and the large ramp descending into the stage area. There's a bug-eyed skull here and a creepy doll on a swing there, but the decor is a hodgepodge of themes. One side of the bar showcases vinyl albums and framed music posters; another side has a wall devoted to Ohio State.
Caldwell and Runyon approach their events with the same commitment to diversity. “We're trying to cater to all genres [and] all aspects of Columbus entertainment,” Caldwell said. Indeed, patrons can enjoy “bike night,” for cyclists of any kind, burlesque shows and an upcoming LGBTQ night. There will also be pool and dart leagues in the future.
Attendees can also expect local and national music acts, and a forthcoming Jazz and Blues series on Mondays. They can also look forward to a two-day Halloween Bash featuring a costume party, prizes and multiple bands.
“We're trying to mix it up [so] it doesn't get stale,” Caldwell said.
But first they have to draw more customers; for some people, the South Side still has a negative reputation, Caldwell and Runyon said.
“I think our biggest hurdle right now … is getting people to see that we are a safe, fun [and] nice place to come,” said Runyon, who relocated to the neighborhood when they took over the building. “You don't have to worry about trouble in here.”
“We're only a couple blocks away from German Village,” said Caldwell, who welcomes the renovation taking place on the South Side. “They're trying their best to build up [the area], so I think we're in a great spot.”
Runyon has already started to see a positive reception from people who have ventured into the bar.
“Most people, when they come in, their first comments were they were afraid,” she said. “But … they felt so comfortable. They weren't expecting what they've seen.”