Ahead of the Beat
As Patrick Lyons prepares to open the doors to two new Back Bay restaurants, the social mogul reflects on the evolution of the city’s dining and nightlife scene.
THE ERA: Early ’80s
A.K.A. The Emerging Market
THE MAJOR VENUES: Metro, Spit, the Rathskeller, Lucifer’s
THE PLAYERS: College kids, punk rockers, New Wavers
THE SCENE: By 1978, Lyons was managing the club at 15 Lansdowne, renamed Boston-Boston. The next year, he opened the punk-rock club Spit in an adjoining space. There, U2 and Madonna played early gigs, and everyone wore spandex and shredded clothing. “Spit was my favorite club of all time,” Lyons says. “It was wild and fantastic.” Boston-Boston soon morphed into Metro and kept the audience bopping.
The Lyons Group was a growing force. By the beginning of the ’80s, its market in Boston was still made up of two tribes. “If you were a disco customer, you listened to Kiss 108 and went to Metro,” he says. “If you were a rocker, you listened to ’BCN and went to Spit.”
But punk was giving way to New Wave, and disco was being displaced by club music. Boston’s social structure was changing, too. “All the kids who had grown up in the neighborhoods — the ethnic Irish, Italians, Greeks — they were going away to college,” he says. “And we knew this because we always saw a spike in business the night before Thanksgiving, when they would come home and meet their friends at the clubs.”
THE LESSON: As you grow, your audience subdivides. “You have to know more about a lot more people today — how to make them happy and how not to disappoint them. And the punishment is much more swift if you fail.”