Dr. Pott’s: Archaeology & Disco in the Cincinnati Suburbs

Come with us on archaeological expedition and DISCOver the story of an archaeology themed disco located within the Holiday Inn Riverfront in the Cincinnati suburb of Covington, Kentucky.

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1963 Holiday Inn Cincinnati Riverfront postcard 

The Holiday Inn Riverfront had opened in the 1960s with a modest Holiday Inn restaurant attached to the side. Over the next 15 years people ate, people chatted, and people moved on through without giving the restaurant much of a thought. The basement featured a conference room and a small bar, but no real entertainment.

By the late 1970s, tastes had changed and a new dance craze had taken over the country and Cincinnati was no different.

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By the end of 1979 the area was home to a number of disco clubs and disco-themed restaurants including:

  • Amanda at 311 Delta. Ave.
  • Bentley’s at 36 W. 5th
  • Lucy’s in the Sky at Eighth at Linn on the Top Floor of the Holiday Inn Downtown
  • Tomorrow’s at Fifth and Race
  • Rookwood Pottery at 1077 Celestial St. in Mt. Adams
  • Max and Erma’s at 123 Boggs Lane
  • Lighthouse Ltd. at Vine and Calhoun
  • Spanky’s in the Holiday Inn North at 2235 Sharon Rd.
  • The Conservatory at 640 W. Third in Covington
  • Past-Times Saloon at 2640 Glendora
  • Badlands at 419 Plum St.
  • Trumps at Princeton Pike and Kemper Rd.

The glut of clubs did not stop entrepreneur Jeff Ruby from opening a new club in the basement of the Holiday Inn Rivermont. A short bio about Jeff Ruby from his website:

Ruby took a job in 1970 with Winegardner and Hammons’ Holiday Inn in downtown Cincinnati. There, he turned a 12th floor bar into the “Den of the Little Foxes” (a lá the Playboy club) at Lucy’s in the Sky disco and made it the place to be for those who wanted to see and be seen. His success at Lucy’s quickly propelled him to the post of Regional Director of all seven Holiday Inns in Cincinnati.

Ruby had a complicated history with nightclubs. Ruby had helped Lucy’s in the Sky in the Holiday Inn Downtown to success. However, it wasn’t all great. Ruby was in attendance at the Beverly Hills Supper Club on the evening on May 28, 1977 when an inferno swept through the sprawling club. 165 people died but somehow Ruby had managed to escape. That event did not deter him from wanting to open a new nightclub.

In a December 1978 interview Ruby said that he believed “there’s still a (dance) market for real people,” and he wanted to have a “clientele less chic and more down-to-earth than some of the discos around town.” Ruby would

Through his Holiday Inn connections he met Robert Fields, who had opened clubs in several Holiday Inns including Peary’s Explorers Lounge in Anchorage, Alaska and Runway 22 at Chicago-O’Hare, the new club would contain a theme very close to Fields’ heart.

Archaeology had been a hobby for Fields since childhood. During his teen years he told his father that he wanted to be an archaeologist but his father had told him that he couldn’t do it because he would never make any money. Fields was determined to prove that he could be successful and still share  his passion.

Fields’ design featured an archaeological themed nightclub/disco replete with 700-100 Peruvian textile fragments in the walls near the bar, replica Aztec pottery and a central room that resembled an Aztec temple. The new club would hold 350 people and featuring local bands and hottest disco tracks available.

The new place would be called Dr. Pott’s. The logo featured a character with a bow tie, pit helmet and coat eerily similar to Howard Carter, the famed archaeologist who discoverd King Tut’s tomb in the 1920s.

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Cincinnati Enquirer – December 14, 1979

Dr. Pott’s opened on December 15, 1979. Featuring celebrity host Jim LaBarbara and the both live and recorded disco sounds of  Mason-Dixon Dance Band, the opening night celebration was a major success.

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Cincinnati Enquirer – December 15, 1978

Throughout 1980, Dr.Pott’s became THE place to party, find “romance” and dance the night away. However, not everybody was allowed to join in the fun. On January 29, 1980 country music stars The Gatlin Brothers were denied entry because they were wearing faded denim jeans.

 

By the middle of 1981 the disco craze had faded and the music itself became a joke. Ruby and Dr. Pott’s continued to book live entertainment but disco was a thing of the past. By 1986 the club, struggling to maintain a crowd, tried once again to capitalize on a fad and became a comedy club. The Dr. Pott’s/comedy marriage would only last a short time and a new comedy club called Cassidy’s would open in the same location.

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Cincinnati Enquirer – October 5, 1986

Dr. Pott’s success was short-lived and all the memories of the archaeology-themed restaurant would be forgotten. However, Jeff Ruby would not fade away. After forging a business partnership with Cincinnati Reds legends Johnny Bench and Pete Rose,  Ruby would go on to numerous bigger and better things. His website gives a brief timeline of the successes to come:

 

After opening The Precinct in 1981 he followed with The Waterfront in 1986, Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse in 1999, Carlo & Johnny in 2001, Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse, Louisville in 2006, and Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse, Nashville in 2016. Consistency and quality are hallmarks of a Ruby restaurant – a fact supported by the 3 decades of success at The Precinct, Cincinnati’s longest continually-running fine dining restaurant.

Today, managing the growing Ruby brand is a family affair as each of Ruby’s children is deeply involved in the company. Daughter Britney Ruby Miller serves as Corporate Director of Operations, and sons Brandon and Dillon fill roles as General Manager of The Precinct and Assistant General Manager of the Nashville location respectively. Together, the family owns 5 eateries in 3 states with another 2 steakhouses in development.

*In addition to the Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire, Ruby would survive a 1987 accident that left him in critical condition with a fractured skull and a blood clot on the surface of his brain. He slipped in and out of a coma for nearly two weeks. Chances of survival were around 10% and yet Ruby managed to check himself out the hospital 33 days later.

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