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.”

  • Joani

    Amazing article. I knew Pat back in 1979, when I was there for the summer and then later when I returned in 1980′s to live and attend school. While there I worked with his brother, Mike, handing out promotional items for RJ Reynolds. Pat, and even Mike, always amazed me with their keen business sense. Kudo’s to them. Pat is your reading this, I think you are one of the brightest most observant business men I know.