Big Heavy's Blues and Dance Club

By Paul Moffett

Some new businesses hire expensive specialists to research names for the business.

Pete Giffin got his club's new name for seventy-five cents.

He recalls the moment: "I was opening the door one morning and I heard somebody holler 'Hey, big heavy! Big heavy!' I turned around and there was this black street guy, wanting spare charge. I gave him seventy-five cents."

"The name stuck in my head," he chuckled, "and that's how the bar got its name."

Pete Griffin didn't want to have his picture taken but we insisted. Photo by Paul Moffett

The club, at 227 E. Market, is located literally in between two of the larger blues clubs in the downtown area: the Backstage Blues Club at Second at Liberty and Stevie Ray's at 230 E. Washington, just down the alley from Big Heavy's. The building formerly housed a furrier, until about three years ago, when it was gutted and converted into a club.

The current opportunity came to Giffin almost by chance. The lease on the building was signed on Aug. 15 and the doors were opened Sept. 1.

"I don't think anybody has remodeled and opened a place this fast," he said. "Business has been doubling every weekend. I don't think you can ask for more than that." He is planning for the long haul, however.

"If you open a blues club, you got to gut it out," he said. "You don't go to alternative or something if it doesn't work immediately."

Asked if the competition might be a fatal blow to one of the clubs, Giffin shrugged and noted that he thinks there's a lot of business in the area and that with the completion of the waterfront project and the future expansion of the convention center, there will be lots more.

The club has two entertainment areas. The front room is dedicated to the blues, with the stage in the front window. Bands are scheduled to play Wednesdays through Saturdays. The back room, with a large, circular dance floor and tables around the perimeter, opens on an outside beer area. A DJ plays dance tunes, and there is a flying light show suspended above the floor.

A former bouncer at several area clubs over the past few years, Giffin fits the description that the street person improvised. He's big and apparently heavy and quite capable of tossing troublemakers out on their ear. He's done it.

"I don't care what kind of person [folks] are. All that matters is that they buy liquor and don't cause trouble."

A Portland (Ky.) native, Giffin worked at the old Beggar's Banquet, the Troubadour, Cliffhanger's, and most recently, Hurricane O'Malley's. He also owned and operated Augie Doggie's in the South End for three years. A heart attack late last year resulted in his departure from O'Malley's.

Now with an eye toward buying the building, Giffin plans to make the most of this opportunity.

"I'm gonna retire to the Islands," he laughed. Then he went back to tending to the unfinished details of running a blues club.