Coast nightlife is burgeoning in a sort of post-Hurricane Katrina nightlife renaissance.
Downtown hot spots have popped up in virtually every city along the Coast from Pascagoula to Waveland and points in between.
All have great spots to dine, dance and imbibe.
Today, however, we will focus on some of the hot spots in Ocean Springs' active nightlife scene, and in the weeks and months to come, we hope to shine the spotlight on the nightlife scenes in other cities across the Coast.
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On any weekend, the nightlife in Ocean Springs offers a diverse range of atmosphere and entertainment, particularly in the downtown area, Washington Avenue and along Bienville Boulevard.
Longtime residents know it wasn't always that way. While the city has seen its share of hot spots come and go, the city now has at least 24 businesses that are predominantly bars. It's also the first time for so many bars to be concentrated in the heart of downtown.
10 years in the making
It was mid-2005 when The Government Street Grocery perhaps laid the groundwork for the recent surge of spots attracting crowds to downtown.
Already reputable, the Grocery quickly reopened after Hurricane Katrina and became a beacon for those seeking respite from the destruction. Through the years, they retained customers with tasty food, a hipster atmosphere and a reputation for booking original acts from the college music scene.
Kwitzky's Dugout also opened after Katrina, creating the second stop in what would become a walkable bar scene along Government Street. Ten years later, owner Kris Kwitzky continues to accommodate sports fans on occasion with potluck setups on the patio. As the city's first smoke-free standalone bar, Kwitzky is proud to maintain a core patronage.
"Sometimes you're in the highs, sometimes you're in the lows; but this is what I do, so I make it work," Kwitzky said. "I like coming into work. I like the people."
The bar scene grew with the addition of Mosaic Tapas Bar where the music, menu and hookahs appeal to an international crowd. Owner Arturo Barajas expanded the bar to include a large courtyard and craft beers at The Beer House.
Speaking of outdoor settings, Leo's Wood Fired Pizza seems to have struck gold with a large courtyard that has remained the hottest spot in town for years. Even in inclement weather, patrons huddle around heat lamps and crowd the bar. Leo's is a place to be seen, but it is no doubt also popular for the brand of live pop and rock music offered six nights a week.
Nearby is the Firefly Tavern, an intimate cocktail spot that re-opened last month. The corner bar The Office is a place to fall in with boisterous college alumni during football season. Also, perhaps the city's premiere country bar, Boots & Spurs, has a spacious layout, a long bar and a dance floor.
At The Flying Irishmen, the quarters are tight and the atmosphere is lively when bands like The Tall Boys fill the room with fans. Next door, Murky Waters is an early-night spot for barbecue and true blues acts. Still in walking distance is the classic standalone bar The J Spot and a good spot for shooting pool at Yellowtails.
While it's a not in the heart of downtown, a short walk up the road is The Juke Joint. The eclectic bar offers the feel of a house party and late night live music.
Downtown is still home to old school bars such as Sweet's Lounge and Rumours where one can enjoy the liberty to smoke and have an ice cold draft. These "watering holes" each have their own personality, and it's often defined by their bartenders, dart leagues or juke box offerings.
Lynchburg Landing offers a shuffleboard table and one can step outdoors at The Inn Zone for a game of horseshoes. Castaways Bar & Grill stands out for live classic rock acts and 24-hour operation with an open kitchen.
Just on the edge of the city limits, at the foot of the Fort Bayou Bridge, one can find two hideaways with lots of character. Gil's Fish Camp offers a view of the bayou, and the cellar dwellers at The Julep Room enjoy eclectic music acts in a setting reputed to have been visited by Elvis.
Other sports bars include Val's Bar & Grill, Woody's Roadside, In TimeOut and Kahuna OS. Not to be forgotten along Bienville Boulevard, The Daiquiri Factory.