Towne Casino was a prominent but short-lived nightclub in the Euclid–East 105th commercial district on the north side of Euclid Avenue. The building where it opened had been the popular Chin’s Golden Dragon restaurant from 1936 to 1949 when Ted Miclau purchased it following the business’s decline after World War II. Miclau, a Romanian immigrant who had come to Cleveland in World War II after more than a decade in the restaurant business in Chicago, had first opened Little Ted’s, a Romanian-American restaurant at 304 E. Superior Avenue in downtown Cleveland in 1945. When he bought the Golden Dragon four years later, he abandoned Romanian cuisine and turned it into Ted’s Latin Casino, which lasted just two years before he revamped it again as Towne Casino with a “Harlem” theme.
Towne Casino was one of Cleveland’s most popular “mixed” nightclubs in 1951-53. A Cleveland Call & Post article stated that 70 percent of its patrons were African American. Being a mixed club brought Towne Casino an abundance of attention, both good and bad. Thanks to operator Eddie Halstein, a lot of locals came in to see local music groups or singers such as Jay “Screaming” Hawkins. Towne Casino had a reputation for giving local talent some action in the limelight. On the other hand, the progressive nature of being a “mixed” nightclub also brought negative attention. African Americans had never been particularly welcome on Euclid Avenue. In 1944, for example, an African American woman named Margaret White won a damage suit after Chin’s Golden Dragon denied her and a Black friend service.
A decade later, the same address now openly welcomed Black patrons at a time when the Hough neighborhood to the north was undergoing rapid racial transition. In the spring and summer of 1953, Towne Casino became a target for racially charged bombings, not just once, but on three separate occasions. Thankfully on each occasion no one was killed, but the club sustained thousands of dollars’ worth of property damage. On the night of the first bombing in March, more than four hundred Cleveland doctors, lawyers, and socialites were present. The explosion that night shattered windows of the club itself and businesses around it, and the thick front door was ripped off of its hinges.
According to musician Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, who usually packed the place for three straight days when he played there, business at the Towne Casino dramatically fell after the bombings started. Finally, after the third bombing in July 1953, Ted Miclau decided to close the Towne Casino’s doors. The message on the marquee said it all: “Don’t Bomb Us. We Quit.” But before closing, Towne Casino had one last hurrah. This final get-together was said to be one of Towne Casino’s most packed parties and was well attended by both blacks and whites. Unable to revive Cleveland’s “Black and Tan” club tradition on the East Side, Miclau retreated downtown, continuing to run Little Ted’s until 1955, when he opened the Black Angus, a staple of the Playhouse Square district until its theaters shut down in the late 1960s.
Towne Casino was ultimately only one of ten Cleveland locales, especially in the vicinity of University Circle, that were bombed in the early 1950s—all were locales having something to do with African Americans and racial progress, including a church and homes of local politicians pushing for equality. All ten cases remained unsolved despite the intense investigations reportedly undertaken by Cleveland’s police department.
- Black Angus advertisement. Plain Dealer. April 8, 1956.
- “Bomb Ends Louis’ Cleveland Date.” New York Age. March 21, 1953.
- “Bombings Force Towne Casino to Close.” Call & Post. August 8, 1953.
- Chin’s Golden Dragon advertisement. Plain Dealer. July 14, 1936.
- J. E. F. “Halloween to be Big Event at Towne Casino: Put on Halloween Ball this Friday.” Call & Post. November 1, 1952.
- Little Ted’s advertisement. August 25, 1946.
- Michney, Todd M. Surrogate Suburbs: Black Upward Mobility and Neighborhood Change in Cleveland, 1900-1980. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017.
- Pullen, Glenn C. “Foster’s Band and Bartons Open Latin Casino Thursday.” Plain Dealer. November 27, 1949.
- Pullen, Glenn C. “Remodeled Golden Dragon to Get New Name and Policy.” Plain Dealer. September 18, 1949.
- Pullen, Glenn C. “Swinging Down the Avenue.” Plain Dealer. February 18, 1951.
- “Ted Miclau, Restaurant, Motel Owner.” Plain Dealer. August 20, 1991.
- “Tiny Grimes Discovers ‘Voice’; Dinah Uses Her’s at Towne Casino: Cleveland Singer Signed by Grimes.” Call & Post. December 20, 1952.
- “Towne Casino Remains Open.” Call & Post. August 1, 1953.
- “Wins Damages from Chin’s Golden Dragon.” Call & Post. March 18, 1944.