Riggs Lounge: ‘Where everybody knows your name’

By Anna Yoder, Membership Director – North Side/Shore Chamber of Commerce

Photo: Longtime bartender Rick Taylor and owner Marshall Riggs behind the bar at Riggs Lounge on Brighton Road, the ‘best kept secret on the Northside.’ by Anna Yoder

You might remember the 80s sitcom television series Cheers with its theme song, “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” and wondered, ‘Do places like this really exist?’ Ponder no more. The best kept secret on the Northside, called Riggs Lounge, is a place where you are warmly welcomed and where the staff quickly learn—and remember—your name.    

One evening after having dinner at a neighborhood restaurant, a waiter who knew that my husband and I wanted to take in everything that the Northside had to offer, suggested that we saunter over to Riggs Lounge. We thought we knew a lot about the Northside, yet had no idea Riggs Lounge was just around the corner on Brighton Road. A green neon Riggs Lounge sign glowed in the window as we peered inside it like tourists and spotted nicely appointed booths with red-shade lanterns at each of them, exuding an “old school lounge” vibe. We noticed a large gathering of patrons laughing, dancing, and generally having great fun: They beckoned us in. Upon entering, we received a very friendly hello from Rick, one of the tenured bartenders, who quickly wiped off a place for us at the bar. Casual and comfortable conversation ensued not only with Rick, but with Marshall Riggs, the owner, and many of the regular patrons. All the while, lively jukebox music played in the background. The music and conversation were as diverse as the clientele, ranging from Aretha to Akon; from Ziggy Marley to ZZ Top. I practiced my beginner Spanish and polished my ASL: No joke! We felt totally welcomed and at home. When I asked Marshall why there weren’t more people who patronized Riggs Lounge, he thoughtfully declared, “They are scared [to come in], but don’t know why.”

Riggs Lounge is no scarier than taking your dog for a walk and is much more than just any old bar where they know your name. Riggs Lounge is steeped in history and has been an important part of the fabric of the Northside since the 1940s, when Marshall’s grandmother bought the building. Since that time, it has stayed in the Riggs family and was previously owned by Marshall’s aunts and dad until Marshall took it over in 2012. Even 88-year-old Hilda, Marshall’s cousin who immigrated from Austria, works at the bar and has been there for over 65 years! During an era when workers didn’t wolf down their lunch, Riggs, as it is affectionately called, was the hot spot for the “one-hour lunch.” When asked what Marshall loves most about being in the bar business, he quickly smiles and replies, “It’s always the people.” 

Riggs serves a wide selection of craft beers and cocktails and sometimes more. I was lucky enough to experience Marshall and his wife Wendy’s generosity during their Super Bowl and New Year’s Eve parties where, pre-COVID-19, a delicious customer appreciation buffet was offered—for free. Riggs also does their fair share of charity work. I have been to their fundraisers for Lending Hearts, a cancer support organization, orchestrated by another long-time bartender, Tim. Riggs is also a popular place for movies and TV shows to be filmed.

No description of Riggs is complete without mentioning their spotless and gorgeous bathrooms. The bathrooms are the envy of anyone who has been to Riggs, period. So, the next time you are walking up Brighton Road, you don’t need to peer in the window with the green neon sign; simply walk up the front steps and go right in, where you will be warmly greeted. The staff will come to know your name too. Marshall is proud to say, Riggs is “a place where no one pushes their agenda on one another” and “everyone gets along.” I wholeheartedly agree.

P.S. Play the vintage bowling machine. It’s only 50 cents a game! 

Riggs Lounge is owned by Marshall and Wendy Riggs and is located at 1208 Brighton Rd.

Anna Yoder is the Membership Director of the North Side/Shore Chamber of Commerce. Established in 1897, the Chamber’s mission is to “promote, connect and support the growth and success of businesses.” If you have questions about the Chamber or are interested in becoming a member, contact Anna Yoder at anna@northsidechamberofcommerce.com.

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