The great blues guitarist and world champion darts player both would feel perfectly at home inside Harrisburg’s newest club.
That’s right—a musical style and a niche sport have inter-bred, and the result is River City Blues Club & Dart Room, located in a large space on Cameron Street, just (if you’ll excuse the pun) a dart’s throw away from I-83. A brightly lit electronic sign beckons passers-by to step inside the tidy brick building, once home to Sacred Heart Catholic School.
The sign isn’t the only beacon for enthusiastic music lovers. Social media has been buzzing as the word spreads about the new venue. At the late August grand opening, the large parking lot was filled to capacity, and eagle-eyed patrons waited their turn to jockey for position as coveted spaces became available.
A staff member sat vigil at the door collecting the $5 cover charge, which customers gladly forked over to hear several live blues acts on tap for the warm summer evening.
Upon entering, a few curious patrons climbed the stairs to check out the dart room and watch a little friendly competition before heading downstairs where musicians entertained the crowd.
Partners Phil Dobson, Jonas Hair and Rick Hefelfinger—all veterans of Harrisburg’s entertainment and arts scenes—have succeeded in striking just the right balance of atmosphere, space and acoustics in the room where both local and out-of-state musicians perform. The dimly lit space feels cozy, but not cramped, and patrons can converse without shouting as they listen to the band.
The sometimes edgy, but interesting and tastefully displayed artwork created by Root 222 lines the walls both upstairs and downstairs, and many customers take the time to walk up and inspect the colorful pieces more closely. Hair, who has experience working with art galleries, plans to use his connections to feature other artists on a rotating basis.
Seats were at a premium during opening night as guests lined the bar, sat around tables, or scooted together along the black leather sectional that hugged the side and back walls. Some shared appetizers like nachos, or jalapeño crab poppers, while others chose from a variety of wings, burgers, salads and sandwiches listed on the two-sided menu.
There wasn’t a bad seat in the house when Eli Charleston, ragtime-blues guitarist, took the stage. After finishing his set, Charleston commented on the new venue.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s classy, and it’s nice to have a fresh face in Harrisburg.”
For now, live music will be limited to Thursday through Saturday, according to Hair. Thursdays will be open mic nights, and Hair encourages those who want to share their musical talents to arrive before the 9 p.m. start to secure a place on the roster.
The downstairs may be hopping on weekends, but the upstairs takes on a life of its own every day. In the dart room, five traditional English dartboards line a back wall for steel-tip dart players, and nine state-of-the-art Phoenix Electronic dartboards automatically record scores, making it easy for those with a competitive streak to show off their skills.
Mark Fair and John Kuczynski are professional dart players who oversee operations and ensure the dart leagues and equipment run smoothly. Both men have traveled all over the world to play. Kuczynski competed on the U.S. team in Hong Kong and Korea and won world titles in Chicago and France. Fair has competed on the U.S. team in Hong Kong, Korea and Las Vegas. Both men are willing to help others learn the game.
Ryan Davis, league and tournament coordinator, will be available to lend a hand, as well. Would-be players need to just show up, and someone will get them started. The cost is 75 cents per game, and those who choose to join a league can opt to play anywhere from one night a week to all seven.
“We know we have the best dart room on the East Coast, if not the entire country,” said Fair.
Thirsty players can take time out to order a drink at the bar just outside the dart room, relax inside the roomy café upstairs, or grab a bite to accompany their favorite libation. Happy hour runs from 7 to 9 p.m., and doors open at 6 p.m. every day of the week.
Guest who come for the live music and fail to secure a seat downstairs will be glad to learn that they can enjoy the music being played downstairs on the televisions upstairs via live feed.
Hair said the response to the new club has been phenomenal, and he hopes to continue to add to the schedule.
“Harrisburg has always been a blues town, and I’m very happy to be doing this,” he said. “We plan on building upon what we have now to continue to showcase both local and out-of-state talent.”
River City Blues Club and Dart Room is located at 819 S. Cameron St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.rivercityhbg.com.