Support us with Kachingle!
September 13, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Born on the East Coast and transplanted to Columbia for work, Sal Nuccio found his niche here as a bar owner. His down-to-earth attitude coupled with a Jersey accent have served him well — Eastside Tavern is celebrating its 15th anniversary at the end of September.
In a town where bars come and go as often as the seasons, Eastside’s longevity is rare. Nuccio gives insight about what has made his bar tick for so long, how this scene has changed in the past 15 years and about the varying levels of talent that consistently hit his karaoke stage. He even explains what the “dirty” in the title of each Friday’s “Dirty Disco Dance Party” actually means.
What do you have that others bars don’t to stay around for 15 years?
People who are looking to get away from jock bars and corporate chains and places like that usually appreciate a place like Eastside. It’s nothing big, nothing fancy, but it’s part of a scene, an alternative scene every city should have. In the beginning, it was just basically — well it still is — like an alternative to normal stuff. A lot of people return here, especially girls, because it’s not an atmosphere that it’s a pickup place. You might meet somebody, that’s fine, but it’s not like a meat market thing where people come here to hook up.
That’s definitely something different about a Columbia bar.
Yeah, well, if you’re going to be downtown — I mean you don’t have to — but I think you should. If you’ve got that lock on Harpo’s and Fieldhouse, they’re just household names. They’ve got it made, and they cater to that crowd where they automatically just get a new influx of people. A place like this, you’ve kind of got to look for the crowd. You’ve got to let them know you’re there. So it takes actually a little bit more work to be creative and lure that specific crowd.
So, the crowd has pretty much stayed the same?
Well, no. The crowd keeps growing because this place is an alternative place, but it is also a progressive place. I keep the DJ and stuff like that. There’s younger people that are way younger than me that I keep around me so I can be advised and be progressive, so it’s not just like a place that stays the same — like a townie bar or something like that. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that.
If there were one drink that represented Eastside Tavern, what would it be?
These days with a lot of places in Columbia everybody’s trying to outdo each other with the micro-beer thing and have, like, 20 taps … but (it) just equals overpriced and boring. They’re just kind of catering to their own ego and paying extra to have an atmosphere that kind of sucks and isn’t fun. Where here, you can come and get reasonably priced drinks and you can get a PBR and a shot of rye. So PBR and a shot of rye. Affordable, fun, not shooting for fancy.
What goes on at Dirty Disco?
Oh, nothing that’s really dirty. I mean it’s a small place, so it gets a little sweaty up front, that’s about as far as the dirtiness goes. A bunch of sweaty kids up front dancing and stuff like that. It packs ‘em in; they love the DJs. (The DJs) have different themes every week, and they’ll work off of that with the music. I’m not up on all of the technology they have these days for DJs, but they’ve just got all kinds of crazy mixes. Some of it will be disco era stuff, then it will be layered with more new stuff. I couldn’t really put my finger on it to say what type of music it is — it’s just fun dance music.
What is the one karaoke song that would make you jump off a cliff if you hear it again?
That depends on who’s singing it. Our karaoke, it’s kind of like, some people can ace the song. Some people can do it really well. A lot of people just do it as jokes, which is also a form of entertainment. And being that we’ve been doing it for five years, we’ve made it that you don’t have to take yourself too seriously. Some pick a song they know they can’t sing, and they just butcher it. They’re just having fun. And then some people get up there and they really can sing. A lot of people like to do “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie. People love to get drunk and sing that song.