Now and Then: Columbia Nightlife

Now and Then Columbia Nightlife

A collage of photos of Art Bar and The Big Apple showing historical pictures and photos taken in 2023. | Photos via Richland Library Digital Archive and COLAtoday

Bars in Five Points come and go, but these Soda City nightlife establishments have stood the test of time in one way or another.

Thanks to Richland Library’s digital image archive, we tracked down three historic photos of Columbia’s late-night spots (the earliest dating back to 1936) and retook the pictures to show you how they appear today.

Art Bar

Opened in 1992 in the former Continental Tire location in the Vista, Art Bar celebrated 30 years of embracing Columbia’s alternative culture last September. Over the years, the Cola staple has become known for its welcoming atmosphere and as a hot spot for open mic comedy, karaoke, trivia, and live music. It’s also known for its large robots by artist and furniture designer Clark Ellefson, who was one of the original owners.

The Big Apple

In the 1930s, the former House of Peace synagogue was turned into a dance hall where Black youth from surrounding neighborhoods would gather and dance to upbeat jazz tunes on the pine wood floors. Students from USC would gather in the balconies to watch and admire the dance moves that would go on to start a national craze.

The Big Apple” dance was performed at Roxy Theaters across the country and even inspired a hit song. The club opened a few more times in the 1940s, but never regained its initial popularity. It was moved to its current location in 1984 from 1318 Park St.

Goatfeathers now and then

Goatfeathers as seen in 1982 and 2023. Photos via Richland Library Digital Archive and COLAtoday


When Goatfeathers opened its doors in the early 1980s, it was the premiere place to grab gourmet coffee and pastries. Jeff Helsey — the original owner and one of the founders of Art Bar — is known for introducing the first cappuccino machine to South Carolina and offering the first Guinness Stout, among other things.

Today Goatfeathers is owned and operated by USC graduate Opie Patterson, who reopened the iconic Five Points bar in 2014 under its beloved nickname, “Goat’s.”