Mainstay of the Middlegrounds

A comfortable hang with easy river access and a weekly lineup of live music that rivals any metropolitan area, Scotty’s Sandbar is a welcoming summer destination

Posted In: Culture, Community Profiles,   From Issue 879   By: Jason Dean

16th May, 2019     0

There’s enough history in Scotty’s Sandbar to fill several walls, but it wasn’t long ago that the famed Middlegrounds nightspot, originally opened in 1962, almost was history.

Sitting vacant from 2004 until 2013, the Sandbar was in danger of being condemned and leveled until Scott and Jill Causley bought the property and invested in major renovations before reopening in June 2016.

“It was in rough shape,” recalls Scott, Jill nodding her agreement during a recent evening at the club. In addition to a new roof, windows, and wheelchair accommodations, improvements include new gas and electrical lines as well as a new water line out to Evergreen Road. In 2018, air conditioning was added.

The purchase was a strategic and sentimental coup for the Causleys. Strategic because the riverfront property could also serve as a base location for their marine contracting business. It was a logical decision, as the rent for berthing their vessels (two barges and two tugboats) worked out to be more than the payments to buy the property.

The sentimental aspect of resurrecting the once-revered music spot was particularly relevant for the drummer of the legendary band The Burdons, who put on some memorable shows at the Sandbar during their heyday in the 1980s. The Burdons still reunite for two or three shows at year at Scotty’s.

Since reopening, the club has attracted some notable acts to the stage, including Thornetta Davis and Ronnie Baker Brooks.

“I want to promote [to] a deep Blues base,” says Scott. “There’s not a lot of clubs that feature Blues, but the ones that do, do it well.” At the 33rd Annual Review Music Awards, Scotty’s Sandbar was recognized as the area’s Best Blues Club.

Scott’s commitment to the blues extends to his role as drummer with the Rhett Yocom Blues Band (see profile in this edition), which nabbed the Best Blues Band award at this year’s awards. 

Local favorites such as The Rock Show and J. West Special regularly pack the place on any given weekend. In addition to music, popular nights are Euchre Club (Monday) and Bikers Night (Thursday). The second Sunday of every month is Family Day, with various food specials.

In the summer, the deck offers live music, an outdoor grill, and an alternate perspective for the Bay City Fireworks. The dock can accommodate 18 boats, and Bay City Boat Rides also operates out of the location.

“When freighters go, by it’s a nice show,” says Jill, adding that the bar offers “freighter specials” during the 2- to 3-minute float-by encounters of the massive vessels.

Scott and Jill are team players on many fronts. Together 40 years, both had previously worked in the service industry, and Jill does the bookkeeping for Causley Marine. The biggest reward of their latest venture, they agree, has been all the friends they’ve met.

Pointing to the bar, Jill says the “Cheers” sign symbolizes the inclusive community of patrons that Scotty’s Sandbar has attracted since reopening.

As an example, she says, it took her a year of working on the Bay City Thursday Night Cycling Group to make its way to Scotty’s for one of its weekly tours. “They finally made it out for their last stop of the year,” she says. “The next year, we were their first stop!"

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