Sal's expands entertainment options with piano bar

Jan. 25—ASHLAND — Sal's Italian Eatery and Speakeasy will open a new chapter today when, at 9 p.m., the place becomes a piano bar.

Owners Bill and Christy Bare are fans of the format, which they have seen when traveling.

"We always go to a piano bar if we can find one," Bill Bare said, noting they've found them in Columbus, Louisville, Las Vegas and Aruba.

"It was a couple of blocks away from our resort," he said of the Aruba site called Soprano's. "Of all the places you can go, it's the most exciting and gets the biggest crowds."

The house band, Roscoe and Tilly Mae Riverton (aka Tom and Anne Stephens), will continue to perform for the dinner hour, but at 9, pianist Brandon Crawford of Columbus will take over, providing a show that consists of music, comedy and dancing, for anyone who feels like cutting a rug.

Bare said his wife made friends with the pianist at the Aruba piano bar, who is from Nashville.

"I said, 'We'd love to have one back home,' and a light bulb came on: Sal's is the perfect place for that," he said. "We have a piano and there's a stage in place. Let's just see what we can do."

After putting out a call for someone who can "do" piano bar, the Bares were approached by Crawford, who not only will perform, but he will train some local musicians to do the same.

"A lot of musicians and pianists can sing, but they haven't done piano-bar style," Bare said. "It's a lot different."

The pianist at a piano bar manages the entertainment, playing and singing, taking requests, making wisecracks and engaging the audience in the act; several of those jobs aren't necessarily part of a musician's skillset.

Crawford has managed several piano-bar musicians, he does it himself and he has helped piano bars find talent. The Bares have not released the names of local musicians who have shown interest, as performers haven't been finalized. Not only will the locals get coaching from Crawford, they will have the chance to perform with him to get experience in the piano-bar style.

"He's going to come and mentor several local musicians ... and see if they even like it," Bare said. "It's a good opportunity. ... There are all kinds of opportunities for a piano-bar-type player — fundraisers, cruise ships — it's going to open up some opportunities for these musicians."

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