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Sunday, June 13, 2021

That ‘80s Bar takes Gainesville residents back in time

The new bar opened its doors on May 28 for a fun throwback, featuring all things ‘80s

A Pac-Man wall painting that reads "I Love the 80s" sits on a wall of That 80s Bar Gainesville, located on West University Avenue on Friday, June 6, 2021.
A Pac-Man wall painting that reads "I Love the 80s" sits on a wall of That 80s Bar Gainesville, located on West University Avenue on Friday, June 6, 2021.

If you “Just Can’t Get Enough” of synthwave, the arcade and all things ‘80s, Gainesville’s newest bar may have you drinking your way back in time. 

That 80’s Bar Gainesville at 19 West University Ave. opened its doors May 28. 

The new dance club is owned by Lawrence Clay who owns other local bars off University Avenue, including Bricks Nightclub, Spurred Up Saloon & Billiards and The Lab Bar & Lounge.

Clay said he hopes That 80’s Bar resonates with the not-so-typical college town customer.

“I wanted to move away from college students and more towards an older crowd. It’s a great corner here because we have Madrina’s and Cry Baby’s, and that’s the kind of the age we’re going for,” Clay said. 

When brainstorming the visual theme for the bar, Clay said he wanted to include concepts like Pac-Man, MTV, The Smurfs and other ‘80s cartoons.

The artwork on the bar’s walls was created by McKinna Salinas and includes paintings of rollerskates, a Rubik's cube, shutter shades, a classic Nintendo NES and a Pac-Man board. 

Salinas studied art at UC Davis in California and moved to Gainesville about two and a half years ago. The 24-year-old said she’s painted several of Clay’s bars and creates murals for the Trader Joe’s off Archer Road.

Salinas said her favorite part of the ‘80s is the “fun, vibrant colors,” and she thought it was cool to create bright paintings that matched the aesthetic. 

Leslee Cone, 22, visited the bar with a group of friends and said the artwork drew her to the establishment. So far, it’s one of her favorite things about the new business. 

Cone said she hasn’t experienced much of the bar yet but expects it to become a spot for dancing. 

The bar also has a Pac-Man arcade cabinet, and Clay said he hopes to fill the space with more arcade games in the future. 

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Prior to That 80’s Bar, House of Beer sat in its current location. Clay said he anticipates its previous customers to check out his new business. 

Dominic Horvath, 29, said he visited the location when it was House of Beer.

“This is my first time at the ‘80s bar,” Horvath said. “We’re here for the funk of ‘80s music and dancing.” 

For some customers, growing up in the ‘80s is what drew them into the familiar vibe. 

Brittiany Frady, 31, said as an “‘80s kid” and lover of the era’s music, the bar caught her interest.

“I expected ‘80s music, ‘80s-themed decorations and the bar delivered,” Frady said. 

Clay said the bar has not been operating long enough to see whether COVID-19 is impacting business. But he said the day of the grand opening attracted a “decent” turnout, and since then, things have been going well. 

The bar fills the space with ‘80s music all night long, and on Saturdays, guests can sing ‘80s-themed karaoke. 

Clay said his favorite ‘80s song is Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” and Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me).” 

He also mentioned the bar has happy hour every day from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., a low-calorie cocktail menu and couches to lounge on. 

Clay assures the bar’s employees will give guests a great experience by “talking to them, exchanging information and making good drinks.”

“It’s fun,” he said. “You can come here, let loose and not care about anything.”

Contact Karter Nancy at knancy@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @writtenbykarter.

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