Different ... Really Different

By Paul Moffett

If you've driven by the Bardstown Road - Watterson Expressway intersection of late, you've probably noticed that the building that housed the Toy Tiger has undergone a bit of renovation on the outside, including a new paint job complete with Egyptian icons and a somewhat new sign, advertising the new club, Pharoah's. It might even have occurred to you that the building doesn't seem to have changed all that much - but then, you haven't been inside.


So, unlike the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, the Bar Formerly Known as the Toy Tiger has really undergone a renovation on the interior. A recent inspection trip, led by the longtime manager Perry Scroggin, reveals that the rough bar with the scruffy reputation has morphed into an upscale lounge, with an Egyptian theme throughout. Instead of baggy pants hanging down around the thighs of the customers, the attire of choice is more often suit-and-tie. Instead of $5 pitchers of the cheapest beer in the house, the three full bars serve martinis and Guiness, Manhattans and Dos Equis, Fuzzy Navels and Bass, all in frosted glasses. For those inclined to lighter alcohol, their is wine list and for those who do not wish to drink alcohol can order specialty coffees.

Scroggin was effusive in talking about the changes inside the club, which began with total overhaul of the restrooms and proceeded to a total overhaul of all of the rest of it.

Scroggin laughed about the restrooms.

"A beer distributor came by and I wanted to show him the place. He said, 'let's look at the restrooms first. If you did the restrooms right, I know the rest will be alright.'

"He was satisfied with the restrooms."

The decor, while Egyptian-themed, is not overwhelmingly so. Seating is either in plush booths or chairs around small tablecloth-draped cocktail tables and there are nooks where customers can get away from the music and play board games (Chess, checkers, mancala) All-new lighting and sound has been installed throughout the club as well.

Every exposed surface in the club has been done over, Scroggin noted, remarking that he had done a lot of the work himself. The walls and ceilings have new surfaces and were airbrushed with scarabs and anhks and other Pharonic emblems. In the main room, now renamed the Pyramid Room, the original dance floor, from the days when the club was the Brown Dinner Theatre has been exposed and expanded to 750 square feet. The stage was moved back, opening up the circular main room, which now has its own full bar. Murals, airbrushed by Chris Holloway, decorate walls here and there.

The front entrance to the club has been rearranged. A copy of the lid of Tutankhamen's sarcophagus is suspended above a wishing pool of water by the door. Proceeds from coins tossed in the pool are donated to Kosair Charities.

The front room, now called the Luxor Room, has a three-hundred-square foot dance floor. Entertainment there will be by Pharoah's house band. Like the music in the Pyramid Room, the focus will be on '50s to '70s material in keeping with the age of the new clientele.

In between the Pyramid Room and the Piano Bar in the back, a foyer with double doors at each end has been added to soundproof the two rooms. Scroggin noted that the back wall of the Pyramid Room stage was ripped out and replaced with double walls with an airspace in between. Consequently, pianist Michael Roy, who plays in the Piano Bar, starting at 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, can entertain folks with quiet tunes while a full band blazes away in the Pyramid Room.

Roy also plays in the Luxor Room during Happy Hour, 3 to 7. Current Happy Hour attractions include a free buffett and half-price drinks.

The grand piano in the Piano Bar elicited a story from Scroggin.

"I found that piano in the Bargain Mart. The guy who had it was an antiques collector whose wife wanted him to sell the piano so she would have room to put up a Christmas tree." The instrument was manufactured by P. A. Starck Company in 1920. Inundated in the 1937 flood, the ivory keyboard was removed and replaced with a brand new electronic keyboard. With just a pair of small speakers mounted on stands, the pianist can fill the room with music without blasting the customers.

Scroggin has not given up bringing in concerts, however. Already scheduled are concerts featuring Warren Zevon on March 14 and Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels on March 21. Tentatively scheduled are Leon Russell and Dave Mason.

The staff has been 'renovated' as well. Only two employees from the Tiger days remain. Clark and Scroggin agreed that the turnover had been good for the attitude of the stuff. The old staff had gotten into some bad habits, Clark said, and it was necessary to change that.

Clark put it more succinctly: "It's all about service now. Customers won't go five minutes without staff checking on them, asking them if they need anything. Just like cocktail lounges and nightclubs used to be."

Besides that, all seating is by reservation. Optional valet parking is available. The current parking lot is set for resurfacing as soon as the outside temperature gets warm enough for the paving material to cure properly.

In short, Pharoah's is on a par with any other Louisville nightclub targeting affluent 35-and-old patrons. Scroggin quoted one of the original owners of the building, Pat Brown, who said that they had "recreated the atmosphere and ambiance of the old Brown Dinner Theatre" - but with new decor.

Scroggin did reminisce a bit about the Tiger.

"I grew up here playing," he said. "I used to be the youngest guy in the place." During the last few years of the Tiger, he was managing the club, which attracted mostly young people. Then, he said, he "was the oldest guy in the place."

Now, he laughed, he's the youngest guy again.

Pharoah's is open Wednesday through Saturday, though on February 27, the club will begin opening on Sundays at 4 p.m. for swing and bop dancing. Regular weekday hours are3 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Fridays, 3 p.m. - 4 a.m. and Saturdays, 7 p.m. - 4 a.m.