Heading to bars every week to write this column is always interesting, but for the most part, I have a pretty good idea of what I'm getting into before I arrive. Cocktail lounges, Irish pubs, dive bars, beer joints — they all have their own character, but there's generally a common theme that makes them not too terribly different from their peers.
I came across Classy Jac's while browsing some New Port Richey bar listings, and it seemed like a breeze, an easy nut to crack. A tiki bar-slash-lounge in a Ramada on U.S. 19 that happens to occupy a piece of waterfront property. A singer performs Thursdays, so I thought that a good time to check it out.
I walked into the lobby, intending to ask the clerk for Classy Jac's location, but the answer came as soon as the glass doors opened, in the form of a thumping techno beat emanating from a room to the left. The high, dark windows offered little clue as to what exactly was going on inside, other than strobe lights flashing and quite a few people clearly in the midst of a good time by the sound of it.
Surely this wasn't the innocuous tiki bar I had read about. New Port Richey is known for its sometimes odd nightlife spots, but clearly this was a mistake — we were arriving shortly before closing time, expecting to find a quiet bar winding down on a Thursday. Classy Jac's had to be on the other end of the hotel property, right? But no, an easel in front of the entrance told me otherwise.
And that's when it got weird.
My traveling companions are used to me dragging them to unusual establishments, but none of us expected the surprise waiting inside. Indeed, there was a DJ playing loud, upbeat dance music, but the crowd was a bit different than the lobby sounds suggested. Classy Jac's, a dark lounge illuminated by candles, rope lighting and flashing stage lights, was home to what must certainly be the hottest dance night in town for the 65-plus crowd.
In a scene that could be taken directly from a David Lynch film, a throng of sharply dressed seniors was energetically dancing in formation to modern club music, many of them mouthing the words. The song ended, and Lulu, the evening's singer, took the stage. As Lulu and her DJ made their way through an unbelievably diverse set of top-40 club tracks, Latin-flavored electro remixes, classic rock hits and new takes on classics (ever hear the club mix of Que Sera, Sera?), the crowd never lost its energy, constantly swapping out partners and simply getting down.
It turns out that Thursday is the night here, with regulars staying past the posted closing time of 11 p.m. I have to say, kids these days just don't know how to dance — these folks really had it down. Classy Jac's has live music on the calendar four nights a week, and I can only imagine what weekends are like.
As for the bar itself, it's pretty simple. All the basics are stocked, although the beer selection is limited to the big-name domestics. Cocktails are the best bet here, and the bartender pours them quite strong and at a fair price. With the weather is getting warmer, the outdoor tiki bar will soon open, with drinks served poolside to a waterfront view.
Once again, New Port Richey surprises me. Musical, demographic and location incongruities aside, Classy Jac's was a good time — a fact that obviously hadn't escaped the Thursday night crowd.