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Medford’s downtown nightlife - 4/1/2008
Mail Tribune

New bars and restaurants with entertainment have brought nighttime fun back to the city core

 By MEG LANDERS Mail Tribune

Robin Mesloh of Medford serves drinks at Porters in Medford Wednesday night. Porters and other nightspots in central Medford are helping to revive downtown life.
Mail Tribune / Jim Craven

When it comes to Medford’s downtown’s nightlife, there’s one thing you can say about it.

"It’s improved," said Tom Phillips, a loan officer who works downtown and was having a drink with friends at Porters at 147 N. Front St. Wednesday evening. He said he goes out to a downtown bar about three times a month, and the nighttime just continues to get friendlier.

With HighWaters Nightclub and Lounge scheduled to open at 9 p.m. Friday, and the nearby Sambuca’s Martini Bar and Italian Bistro aiming for a mid-April debut, the new businesses are part of a changing trend downtown.

Steve Bozz opened Bozz’ Bluez and Jazz Club five months ago, and said the bar scene has come a long way in just the past few years.

"Medford’s nightlife was in the gutters five years ago," he said

Bozz’s, at 17 S. Riverside Ave., is a non-smoking live music club and is already paying for itself, he said. With more people and classier bars, the neighborhood has taken a turn for the better.

"(There’s) better entertainment, safer entertainment and more of a variety of entertainment," he said.

HighWaters and Sambuca’s won’t be a threat but an asset, said Bozz, because patrons will walk around and visit more than one spot.

HighWaters, located at 333 E. Main St., above Hubbard’s Ace Hardware, will have a DJ format with a dance floor, as well as a light dinner menu.

"It’s hip hop, R&B, top 40," said owner Brian Vester, adding that even though they’ve been in limbo waiting to get a liquor license for more than three months, nothing’s changed about their plans.

With an authentic Italian menu for lunch and dinner as well as a martini bar, Sambuca’s (410 E. Main St.) will be classy and elegant, said manager Jeff Smith.

It’s all about people enjoying themselves, he said.

"This is a walk-around area where people can come downtown and have a good time," said Smith, who will manage the new restaurant/bar with his fiancee, Lorrie Petersen.

Petersen said their specialty is an extensive list of martinis — you can select your own olive — as well as other specialty drinks.

She credits the Medford Urban Renewal Agency with being the force behind the dressing up of downtown. The buildings and signs are tastefully done, she said, and the renovated Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater, also an urban renewal project, spruced up the downtown dramatically.

"It just kind of vamped it up again," she said.

Eric Vanderweggen, an employee of HighWaters, said from a business standpoint, the more bars the merrier, and it’s been a positive change for downtown.

"The whole area has become kinda similar to a college-feel area," he said.

Bozz credits the bar owners for going out on a limb to bring the nighttime back to life downtown.

"Now all we need is the support of the people who said this is what Medford needs," said Bozz.

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail mlanders@mailtribune.com.

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