Downtown Oklahoma City 'dive' resurfaces with varied clientele
Larry Jenkins' longtime career as a tavern owner ended abruptly 15 years ago, but he's back in business in downtown Oklahoma City with The Neighborhood Lounge.
Fifteen years have passed since Larry Jenkins, a successful longtime nightclub operator, committed his life to God and attracted national headlines by destroying $5,000 in liquor and converting his So Fine Club into a church.
Videoview all videos
Mar 5Larry Jenkins' longtime career as a tavern owner ended...
Photoview all photos
Jenkins self-published a book about the tragedies and unhappiness that led him to end his 27-year-old business — one known throughout the metro for its celebration of old-time rock 'n' roll. And then, he faded from public notice.
If the So Fine Club at 8200 SW 3 was one of city's livelier night clubs, the opposite could be said about another longtime venue, The Neighborhood Lounge, 733 NW 4.
According to county records, the 2,600-square-foot bar dates to 1930. I recall visiting the bar just once, about 20 years ago, when I was The Oklahoman's crime reporter, to interview a down-on-luck person helping me on a story.
The bar, located across from the Oklahoma County jail and surrounded by dilapidated century-old flop houses, was dark, gloomy and filled with the scent of cigarettes, cheap beer and despair.
The Neighborhood Lounge was a destination for aging inmates released from jail — a place where they could drink and smoke until they died.
A couple of years ago, however, I noticed changes at the corner of NW 4 and Shartel. The Neighborhood Lounge got a new paint job, with a mural of a cheery couple dancing next to a sign declaring “Cocktails and Dancing.” Banners sometimes advertised karaoke nights. And then the gloomy, dilapidated flop houses were torn down and outside lights were added around the bar.
For someone who has seen change of all sorts downtown the past 20 years, this was one of the oddest transformations to date. Then, last fall, I noticed that several popular downtown young professionals with big social media followings began posting about their adventures at The Neighborhood Lounge.
The bar established Facebook and Twitter accounts. When I saw an application filed with Downtown Design Review for addition of an outdoor patio, I noted on my blog, OKC Central, that I had seen everything.
Or so I thought.
Warm welcome key to revival
By most definitions, The Neighborhood Lounge still qualifies as a “dive.” Those who live on the street, folks who have endured tough times, still gather at The Neighborhood Lounge. But now, increasing numbers of young professionals are joining them. A couple weeks ago I finally took up a challenge to see what's going on with my own eyes.
Business Photo Galleriesview all
- 19883Oklahoma medical examiner reports cause of deaths in Grand Lake boat crash
- 16750Oklahoma City Thunder: Amnesty Kendrick Perkins?
- 12000Rx drug bills sent to Oklahoma governor
- 11023Rockets guard Patrick Beverley bombarded with hateful Tweets after Thunder get eliminated
- 8434Report: OSU blocking Wes Lunt from transferring to the SEC, Big 12 and Southern Miss
- 8422Tulsa man tells police he smashed woman's head with machete in self-defense
- 7521Oklahoma football: Sooners get pair of commitments