Throwback Thursday: The Cavern Nite Club roars back to life this weekend
The coolest nightclub in Bowling Green is coming back to life for one night this weekend.
Literally underground at 56-or-so degrees all the time, Lost River Cave is bringing back its
annual Cocktails & Trails event, where the old Cavern Nite Club roars back to life as it was a
Lost River Cave is Bowling Green’s only underground attraction, offering the only underground
boat tour in Kentucky. Lost River valley and nature preserve is home to 72 acres in the center of
Bowling Green and Warren County. Located off Nashville Road on the old Dixie Highway, the
cave has been a roadside attraction for tourists for a century.
In the days of 1920s Prohibition, Bowling Green was not immune to the ways bootleggers would
sneak alcohol into town. While downtown’s underground sewer system became known as
Whiskey Run, Lost River Cave’s natural underground cave entrance was the perfectly
questionable, legal place to sell and consume the devil’s water.
By the 1930s, Billboard magazine dubbed Lost River Cave the “only air-conditioned” club in the
country, thanks to the cave’s natural temperature keeping it chilled all day, every day. A tourist
motor court hotel popped up next to the roadside attraction entrance above the ground, and the
Cavern Nite Club became the swingingest place in town.
Bowling Green businessman Jimmy Stewart owned the club from 1934 to 1949, and his public
relations efforts are what caused the club to gain such popularity with people all over the region.
Huge performers of the era like Dinah Shore and Francis Craig with the NBC orchestra traveled
to play on the Cavern Nite Club floor. Craig was already a Tennessee boy, growing up near
Nashville and honkytonk piano player who turned jazz orchestra leader when he wrote the
“Dynamite” fight song for his alma mater, Vanderbilt University, in 1938. In the club’s heyday, you
could buy a bucket of ice with hidden whiskey for just $2 dollars.
By the 1960s, when the interstate system bypassed the Dixie Highway, many roadside
attractions, motor inns, and dive restaurants fell by the wayside. Cave ownership changed and
the jazz club shut down. The cave’s original bar was still used on the dancefloor for special
events until this year, when a flood caused damage. Cave staff are working on replacing it.
The Cavern Nite Club vibe returns with the cave’s annual Cocktails & Trails event. For
adults 21 and over, this night of fun is filled with carnival games, food, and live entertainment. It
may not be Prohibition anymore, the 2020s have certainly brought the Cavern Nite Club roaring
back to life each year for this special event. Find out more on Lost River Cave’s website.