‘A really good run:’ Mad Frog bar and nightclub closing after 26 years

The Mad Frog at 1 E. McMillan St. in Mt. Auburn will close its doors on July 16.
The Mad Frog at 1 E. McMillan St. in Mt. Auburn will close its doors on July 16.(Brandi Stafford/Cincinnati Enquirer)
Published: Jul. 11, 2022 at 7:05 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (Enquirer) - After 26 years in business, Mad Frog is closing its doors. The decades-old Mount Auburn music venue, located at 1 E. McMillan St., will host its last show on July 16, according to our media partners at the Enquirer.

A demolition permit for the building at 1 E McMillan Street is currently under city review.

Owner Aydin Kol plans to open a new bar and nightclub called Orb Nightclub in downtown. The club will reside in the former Chalet Bar space at 920 Race St. and is currently under renovation, set to open in late August or early September.

Uptown Rental Properties LLC, a Cincinnati real estate development group, purchased Mad Frog from Kol this January.

For over two decades, the bar and nightclub hosted local and regional artists performing live music across a variety of genres, including indie, jam, electronica, Americana, rock, metal, hip hop and punk.

“Mad Frog was a stepping stone for many local bands and housed so many regional and national musicians in the last 26 years of live music,” Kol told The Enquirer.

Before Kol purchased Mad Frog in 1996, the spot was known as Cory’s, a historic bar and jazz club owned by Dan Swango. The watering hole was widely credited with reviving Cincinnati’s blues scene in the early ‘80s and hosted acts like Pigmeat Jarrett, Big Ed Thompson and H-Bomb Ferguson.

“We started with blues, but college kids didn’t really like the blues as much as they liked rock and roll at the time,” Kol said. “So, for a year we did blues and then we changed it.”

Mad Frog was known for its salsa nights, where, every Monday night, attendees could find an energetic dance floor, take dance lessons and listen to live music by the Latin band Tropicoso. Despite the series being held on Mondays, Kol said fans attended the weekly salsa nights “religiously.”

“If you give people a reason (to go out on a Monday), they do come out,” he explained.  “People would say, ‘Hey Aydin, we go to church twice. We go Sundays and then Monday nights.’ We did those (salsa nights) for almost 17 years.”

In the past few years, Mad Frog shifted away from live music toward electronic dance, a change that was accelerated by the pandemic. Kol said he was unable to find a new venue in Clifton or Walnut Hills that would be better suited for EDM crowds, so he started looking downtown. The Race Street space is around 1,000 square feet bigger than Mad Frog and will have LED video wall displays for music-inspired visuals and more space to dance.

“I’m really sad that the Mad Frog era is closing, but hopefully the new one will last at least that long,” Kol said.

In an email, Patrice Burke, vice president of development at Uptown Rental Properties, said the group was awarded a request for proposal to purchase the city-owned property adjacent to the bar, which it also closed on earlier this year.

Future development plans for the area have not yet been announced, but Burke said they will be consistent with the proposal, which called for dense, multi-family housing.

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