The Barking Spider was founded in 1986 by Martin Juredine and Bruce Madorsky. Martin passed away in 2011, but his vision lives on through his daugher, Jenna, who is now at the helm.
The Spider is one of the most unique places in Cleveland. Tucked away behind Case Western Reserve University’s alumni house on Juniper Road, it can be tricky to find, but once you discover it you are bound to return. There are several reasons for this—all of which are enhanced by the people who work and spend time there.
On the one hand, you have the music. The Barking Spider has live music almost every night of the year. Bands are booked six months in advance with 2 or more acts performing each evening. Styles range from jazz and ragtime to bluegrass, folk, reggae and alternative. Martin listened to music of all persuasions, and was always ready to give up-and-coming young artists a chance to perform. If they couldn’t afford a hotel he’d often let them camp out on the floor of his house.
On the other hand you have the ambience that extends beyond the music. Martin had a vision of a place where you could feel at home, as though a band were performing in your living room. That is the feeling you get. The place is comfortable and relaxed, the decor is rustic, wood-paneled and eclectic (you’re allowed to write on the bathroom walls).
It’s not a place you go to dance, though when acts like Carlos Jones and the Plus Band perform, people certainly do. It’s not a place to show off your expensive suit (it’s earthy casual) yet if you show up in your finest attire, after a concert at Severance Hall or a party at one of the local museums, that works fine as well.
The Spider isn’t about the look or feel but about the people. Everyone is made to feel safe and welcome.
Unlike many places these days, the Spider is the sort of place where you feel comfortable chatting with most anyone you might encounter. You can sidle up to the bar to join in a conversation with the bar staff and anyone nearby. When you do you might find a brain surgeon and a carpenter in deep discussion about anything from politics to fishing in South America. And they’ll be happy to let you jump in and share your two cents.
Camaraderie is encouraged. Martin made it this way because he was both affable and a thinker. Jenna and her staff are the same way. They want you to feel at home. In many ways, the Spider is an intellectual hang-out, popular with faculty and staff from Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the Botanical Garden and other nearby organizations. But at the same time, the Spider is also relaxed. You can sit down with a crowd of PhD’s and delve into deep thought or (with the same crowd) you can just relax and talk about baseball.
What you chat about doesn’t really matter. The Spider is a place where you can just be yourself and not worry about pretense.