Piano players will duel at Penguin Bar

Lexington's newest nightspot — The Penguin Dueling Piano Bar — will open within a month at the 500's on Main, continuing a trend of new nightspots downtown.

Each weekend, three piano players will be flown in from around the country to take requests and play from memory, not sheet music.

"Some can play up to 5,000 songs from memory," said co-owner Craig Hays.

"They really feed off the crowd," he said.

The bar will open Oct. 3 at the development near Victorian Square and across from Rupp Arena.

Initially, it will be open Thursdays through Saturdays, but it is expected to expand to Wednesday nights when there will be an unplugged, college-type night, Hays said.

Although the bar doesn't serve food, it offers a wide range of alcohol, including a dozen beers on tap.

It will be the first outside Columbia, Mo., where Hays and three friends operate one they opened in 2004 while students at the University of Missouri.

They settled on expanding to Lexington because they wanted a college town with at least 200,000 people. Hays has some family in town, so he was familiar with Lexington.

The crowd isn't necessarily college students, though.

"We kind of wanted to be in a college town for football games and basketball games because they bring in a lot of alumni and parents," he said. "We found with the one in Columbia that it's really popular with them."

More information about the bar is at

The Penguin is part of a wave of new nightspots opening downtown, including some in Victorian Square.

In fact, 500's on Main developer Robin Schneider said Becky Reinhold, president of Victorian Square Associates and in charge of leasing at the facility, is serving as the Realtor for the remaining retail space at 500's on Main.

The development, which is primarily condos, will have 6,000 square feet of retail space remaining after the 7,000-square-foot piano bar opens, Schneider said.

What's left is two spots, and he's hoping for a couple of casual dining restaurants that will help feed off the other new businesses downtown.

"We're getting a real good bit of synergy on the west end of Main Street right now," Schneider said.