As we all know, some of Wheeling is often considered 10, 20, or even 30 years “behind the times.” It’s fun to flip things on its head and actually go back a couple of decades to check to see if it’s true. In this experiment we find that a lot of the bars that were the places to be in the 1990s, do not exist anymore. Although some have evolved into something different, some of them have disappeared entirely (or as in one case actually sank in the Ohio River). We give props to the survivors: The Alpha, TJ’s, The Glassworks, and Wakim’s, and we pay tribute to the gone, but not forgotten – the Ghost Bars of Wheeling’s ’90s.
Editor’s Note: It’s been 20+ years since we have been to these places, and we probably couldn’t describe them correctly the day after we were there, so please feel free to correct us and fill in the blanks.
Just off Route 2 in North Warwood, this small club had an outside deck where “anything could happen.” Looks like it’s vacant today, and after checking things out again, we are wondering, where the hell did anyone park?
We are pretty sure this place is where Figaretti’s now stands, in Clator. We do remember excellent chicken sandwiches, and one time we all got our asses kicked in the parking lot.
#8 Ernie’s Cork and Bottle
This was the place to be when the Italianfest used to close down Market Street and VERY late at night. We remember phones situated at each table; we are guessing in the swinging ’80s patrons would use them to invite guests to their tables. We also remember sunken floors and secret rooms? She still stands there today, most likely for sale for a good price. C’mon hipsters; this one has you written all over it.
Way out there on Cherry Hill, Graceland was a big place that could get away with hosting things like the Tough Man Contest Calendar Girl Competition, sigh. This jukebox geared more country, and we remember colorful decor, but not that much to tell the truth. Today the footprint is covered by a housing project.
#6 The Firehouse
We remember this North Wheeling establishment most resembling something from a big East Coast city. A former firehouse, The Firehouse seemed to thrive on the release of Icehouse Beer, which was the pinnacle of “Ice Beer.” By the way, what the hell was Ice Beer? Was Zima Ice Beer? The place still stands today, and like the Cork and Bottle, looks vacant and is probably for sale.
#5 The Office Lounge
This Downtown place must have really made a huge impact on us because we don’t even remember where it was. The picture below shows the still in operation McClure House, but where the heck was this place? This was a place for dancing; the bathroom was always really crowded, but there was an available alley, just not sure; we need your help here.
This was an Elm Grove late ’90s must. We remember Brett Cain just killing ’90s tunes, and that’s about it, but it was definitely a great complement to a pre-game at Wakim’s, which has got to be one of the few places in the country, that at least at the time, would serve liquor, but not mixed drinks, only shots. Jaybo’s is where the current Silver Chopsticks is now.
#3 Captain Ed’s Floating Lounge
I think most people agree that this place sucked pretty bad. But the fact that it was on a barge off of 48th St., in the river, and you had to walk a plank to get on the barge and that it didn’t close, it SANK, has to put it in the Top 3. There have to be so many Weelunk stories about this place. We remember when the FBI came to check IDs, not sure if they came by boat or not; we had some stellar fakes and got by. Again the barge SANK, so this is what it looks like today.
#2 The Swing Club
It was in Fulton and was the Wheeling icon of this time period. Yes, it is now Generations, and we think it is under the same ownership, but it is not the same place at all. (Weelunk loves Generations BTW, see here: Through the Generations ). The first time we went to the Swing Club, five of us used the same fake ID, and I think we might have been juniors in high school. The downstairs was the place to chill, and the upstairs the place to dance. Try closing your eyes and playing this song, and don’t tell me you are transported to a way overcrowded, smoke-filled, flannel filled, dirt-stash filled dance floor…and have fond memories:
Ginuwine – Pony
#1 Mac’s Club
Mac’s is No. 1 because it was great, it closed without warning, it was within walking distance to somebody’s home where you could crash, and now its replacement is something from the opposite spectrum of culture – a family dentistry. We remember the sound of every downed beer bottle breaking after the bartender threw it down the Woodsdale laundry style-chute. We remember very tight quarters and a secret room in the back. And we remember songs like these on the jukebox:
Pearl Jam – Black
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Knotty Pines, Billy’s Burgers, Bubba’s, The Lightning Rod and The Eagle Club