Thursday’s shuts down the dance floor after nearly 40 years

Reporting, writing and photos by Emily Anderson

It was a sunny day in 2020 and people all over Akron were staying home, trying to avoid the coronavirus, when we got some heartbreaking news. Such news had been coming at us almost daily already, with the global pandemic and all, but this hit on different emotions. Thursday’s Lounge, one of Akron’s most long-running and beloved dance clubs, announced that it was permanently closing its doors at the end of August. 

Thursday’s had been an all-inclusive club since Fred and Barb Nemr first bought it back in 1983, and their attitudes of acceptance were clearly passed down to their three children — Monique, Mark and Mario — who basically grew up behind the bar. There was just something about the vibe in there that made every person, from every background, feel right at home. It was almost like entering another dimension — the lights, the volume, the diversity and density of the crowd. 

Over the decades, Akron had seen countless changes, but Thursday’s held fast to their values: Everyone is welcome, everyone is equal and everyone should be dancing. 

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In Mario Nemr’s words: “It’s never been about money. It’s always been about love and bringing people together.”

According to Mario, the decision to close Thursday’s permanently was partly because of COVID-19 restrictions, and partly because younger college kids are less involved in the alternative music scene than they used to be. “I just feel like it’s time for someone else to step in and take the throne,” he said.

Just mentioning the word “Thursday’s” gives most Akronites visceral memories of good times. If you’ve lived in Akron or the surrounding areas at any point during the last 30 years, chances are you’ve at least heard of the legendary Thursday night dance parties. We can feel the heat of bodies on the dance floor, taste that cold draft beer, see the bartender pointing at us to order and hear the playlist that has become its own genre: “Classic Thursday’s Jams.” 

The quintessential playlist has been a lifelong passion project by Mario, who began booking bands for Thursday’s when he was a teen. He fell in love with the alternative music scene in the ‘80s, listening to his older sister’s mixtapes. From there his collection grew to a mix of new wave, dark wave, goth, industrial and punk. 

“It wasn’t until the late ‘90s that we started to incorporate indie rock and Brit pop,” Mario says.“The rest is history.” 

As for the building at 306 E. Exchange St., it’s staying in the family but will be rented to  a hookah bar. When I ask Mario if he sees himself opening up another dance club in the future, he says, “I’m leaving the door open for that, of course. Just waiting to see Franz Ferdinand’s kids start a band or something and make the scene danceable again.” My fingers are crossed. 

The Nemrs posted a heartfelt goodbye on Facebook that’s been widely shared. If you scroll through the comments, you’ll see funny reminiscences, memories of unforgettable performances, origin stories of lifelong friendships, and lots of appreciation for everything Thursday’s has been over the years. I won’t lie, those comments had me in my feelings. Thursday’s will obviously be sorely missed by many. 

Mario has a series of Spotify playlists in the works for when we’re really missing Thursday’s or just want to dance in our living rooms.

Thursday’s Lounge will be open for the last time on Saturday, Aug. 29. I’ll leave you with some last words from Mario: “Thanks to everyone who’s supported us over the years. I’m honored to be a small part of an amazing music community over the last 30 years. I don’t see any other bar or nightclub ever accomplishing what Thursday’s did.” 

Emily Anderson is a freelance writer and wants to share her houseplant cuttings with you.