It was in the late summer of 1992 that John Owens and several of his friends concluded that Jacksonville was ready for the opening of a new bar/club catering primarily to the gay community.
The first order of business was finding the right location, and after much scouting on the Riverside area where they wanted to be decided upon the building located at 859 Willow Branch Ave was vacant and available. This property had the added advantage of offering a large parking area.
John bought the building at auction in December 1992 and closed on the sale in February 1993.
The building had been vacant and derelict for a number of years. During the period of vacancy, it had been vandalized to the extent that about all it offered was approximately 14,000 sq. ft of floor space and walls. It was, however, structurally sound and had great potential.
It was necessary to start from scratch. The services of an architect were obtained and the design of the interior was completed. Construction on the initial phase started in the summer of 1993 and was completed in October 1993.
While all of this was going on word had spread throughout the gay community that a new club was on the way and the opening was greatly anticipated. Finally, on October 30, 1993, Halloween Eve, a Saturday night, the club opened for business.
The owner and managers were fretful and worried. Would people come? Would there be acceptance? Well, people did come and they came and came all night long. It was a great opening. What better time for a gay bar to open than Halloween Eve.
The opening was the Disco/Dance Bar with it huge dance floor and the Game Room Bar with pool tables and other game machines.
In the late 1994 The Rainbow Room piano bar and the Boiler Room Levi/leather bar opened. The Rainbow Room was named after a lounge in the long gone Hotel George Washington, and most of the furnishings and bar came from the closed Robert Meyer Hotel. The Boiler Room was so named because that is was it had been originally.
In the summer of 1998 the Club Shadows show bar opened, and a new era for Metro began. First class female impersonators were engaged and wonderful shows were offered every week. This new dimension was a great success and contributed tremendously to the Metro we know today.
In early 2000, James Brown, well known in the community as a great supporter of female impersonation, became interested in acquiring Metro. John Owens was open to selling. His long time general manager had retired and John had no interest in being involved in the day to day operations of the business. Through intense negotiations James was successful in striking a deal and the business passed to him in July 2000.
James upgraded the professionalism of the Club Shadows performers. Shadows continued to be a popular venue. He also did a number of improvements to the building and he created another new room in the upstairs as a non-smoking bar. Sadly, James was diagnosed with lymphoma in early 2006 and he passed away in July 2006 from complications of lymphoma. Jerry Rosenberg and his brother AJ Michaels became interested in acquiring Metro. Through negotiations with the heirs of James Brown's estate, Jerry and AJ were successful in their quest and they became the owners in September 2006.
During their tenure, Jerry and AJ have made many improvements to the overall appeal of Metro. The Game Room bar has been expanded. The upstairs nonsmoking bar did not gain much acceptance and had been converted to a ladies venue now known as Sappho’s, with entertainment geared toward our female clientele. A new outdoor deck with its own Tiki bar was opened in late 2008. Fabulous new light show has been added in the Disco dance bar in 2009.
Metro opened with a bang and much fanfare in 1993, and now in 2013 in the 20th anniversary it continues to rock thanks to the wonderful support of the gay community.