The Cleveland Flats, the area surrounding the Cuyahoga River that bisects the city of Cleveland, has been a shipping powerhouse since the early 1900s and a vibrant entertainment district since the 1980s and 1990s.
The area is divided into two sections -- the East Bank and the West Bank -- with the East Bank today a veritable ghost town, with boarded up buildings and empty streets where there were once hundreds of revelers.
The Cleveland Flats has a long history. One of the area's first settlers, Lorenzo Carter made the area his home in 1796. (A replica of his original log cabin is still located there.) Later, as Cleveland developed into a world shipping power, the Flats housed warehouses, shipping companies, and bars for the sailors.
By the 1970s, the Flats was a deserted area in the shadow of downtown, with a few quirky riverfront restaurants, such as D'Poos and Fagan's. The 1980s and 1990s saw an increase of people and businesses, including national chains, such as Hooter's, Joe's Crab Shack, and Landry's Steakhouse. Eventually, more tawdry spots, including several "gentleman's clubs" set up shop and that, combined with the lack of parking and cheap happy hours, led to the area's decline.
The East Bank of the Flats
In the summer of 2000, three people drowned in the river after a night of revelry, cementing the East Bank's growing reputation as a place of street crime and violence. The final blow was struck in 2001 when a city safety task force raided nine clubs on the East Bank, boarding up six of them on the spot. Club owners sued, but the East Bank of the Flats took a while to recover.
Today, the area has been revitalized with the help of 16 new bars and restaurants established since 2013 and the July 2017 opening of a 23,000-square-foot bar, restaurant, and retail store, Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville.
The West Bank of the Flats
The West Bank of the Flats fared better historically than its eastern neighbor. The area is home to the Nautica Entertainment Complex, which includes the Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica concert venue, the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, the IMPROV Comedy Club, and the Nautica Queen dinner cruises.
The Future of the Flats
As both the East & West Banks of the Flats have seen considerable growth and a $750 million development project which brought a mix of residences and businesses, a saturation of trendy bars and restaurants, and water taxis that run on the weekends to keep the flow of visitors moving smoothly.