Entertainment » Jim Harris

Folks pouring in to River Market

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It's been several weeks, I suppose, since I walked down President Clinton Avenue late on a Saturday night. Last weekend, by 10:30 or 11 p.m., all the clubs were teeming with excitement and fun. Gusano's, my new favorite place with it's almost-Hooters-like waitstaff as well as its tasty, tomatoey Chicago-style pizza and sports TVs in a sports bar setup, was packed. The Flying Saucer and piano bar Ernie Biggs, which sandwich Gusano's, had every seat taken. Across the street, it was standing room only at Willie D's. Anyone who thought dueling piano bars would never make it needed only to see the business at both places, drinks flowing, hundreds of folks singing, fans of Arkansas and Tennessee ponying up $10 and $20 to the Willie D' piano players to hear their fight song played over the other. A Hell's Angels branch from Illinois and their recruits - probably not the tourists our city fathers were expecting - roared into the River Market Saturday night, pretty much taking over Club Coconuts. A couple of friends on their motorcycles were told by the Angel interlopers to find other parking, and they didn't argue. The Hell's Angels seemed rather harmless inside the club, but my smart-alecky self still was warned, "Don't cross 'em." After a little disco-style dancing to a deejay, it was back down the well-populated street to catch the last refrains from a popular new bluesy outfit, the Forrest Williams Band, at the Underground Pub. Alas, Little Rock insists on shutting down its nightclubs at 1 a.m. Sunday morning (the private club Ernie Biggs keeps it flowing until 2 a.m.). Also, no city director seems inclined to push what has been so successful on Beale Street in Memphis: an open-container law in the district so revelers can go from club to club with drink in hand, only within the area, enhancing the overall experience and the spillover into all the clubs. Granted it was the last weekend for some college kids before classes started. But it looks like, despite Little Rock's backward thinking in its club laws, the River Market is now drawing in folks anyway. A waitress at one of the piano bars said, "It's only going to get better when they finish the Clinton Library." That was pretty much the idea.

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