Swim a little deeper at the Merrow

Can’t tell from this, but the Merrow is a nautically themed lounge.
  • Can’t tell from this, but the Merrow is a nautically themed lounge.

The Merrow

1271 University Avenue, Hillcrest

When Ruby Room co-owners Sean and Brittni Cute announced last May that they would be leaving the iconic Hillcrest venue to pursue other ventures, I feared the worst. What would become of Ruby’s eclectic music monthlies? Where would I go for flamboyant burlesque extravaganzas? Were my favorite bartenders destined to throw up their hands in defeat and pass the rest of their days as melancholic dental assistants?

To find out, I visited the four-month-young Merrow (pronounced “mur-OH”) on a recent Wednesday afternoon. I was greeted by Amy, a familiar face from the Ruby days, who assured me that she, along with the majority of the late Room’s staff, had survived the transition. The magnificently mustachioed Ryan Roots still muddles his own mint behind the bar. Soundboard beard-lord Shiloh Nabors-Bloxton still EQs the nightlife on a new and improved system. Ruby regular Aubree Miller still hosts the monthly Nerdcore Night and SD Union still brings some of the biggest names in international drum & bass, hip-hop, and West Coast bass.

The venue’s taps remain dedicated to regional and choice microbrews (which you can sample at $5 a flight during happy hour) and the hindquarters of a vintage Cadillac still protrude from the entryway ceiling — a relic that has been emblematic of the space for years.

The only apparent difference, in fact, is the extensive aesthetic overhaul of the bar’s interior — a testament to the fact that Merrow owner Paul Smith (the more reserved of Ruby’s former trio of titleholders) had seen the spot as a diamond in the rough all along. Paying homage to his Irish heritage, Smith reinvented the venue as a nautically themed (merrow is the Gaelic equivalent of mermaid) neighborhood lounge that, while certainly more polished than its predecessor (you won’t even recognize the bathrooms), maintains Ruby’s commitment to local art and live music.

What else is new? Wednesdays are now home to a laid-back but interactive open-mic night hosted by Science Fiction Jazz guitarist Allen de la Rosa. During my visit, the stage saw everything from drunken poets to adorable boyfriend/girlfriend ukulele acts to an older gentleman decked out in Tom Wolfe white, coaxing electronic beats and blurps from a Kaossilator and ecstatic dance from the crowd.

So, fret not, fellow friends of the Ruby Room. Your beloved lives on. It just shines a little brighter, sounds a little crisper, and swims a little deeper.

  • Attire: Drunken sailor
  • Hours: Monday–Friday, 5 P.M.–2 a.m.; Saturday–Sunday, 2 P.M.–2 a.m.
  • Happy: Weekdays, 5–8 p.m.; $3 wells, dollar-off draft, $5 flights of beer
  • Price: $6 pints, $5 wells
  • Food: Bring your own from Commonwealth next door
  • Capacity: 181
  • Cards: Yes

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