YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – On Thursday, Ohio’s governor made it official that bars and restaurants can stay open until 11 p.m. He’s easing restrictions because COVID-19 hospitalizations have been down.
For some mom and pop bars, it’s too late — the weight of the pandemic was so heavy that they’ve closed altogether, but not Royal Oaks. The Youngstown bar isn’t big or fancy, but it has been open for 87 years.
Two brothers own it now, they have for 19 years. They say the pandemic has been rough, but a few things keep them running.
“To be quite honest, my brother and myself both have day jobs and what really helped keep us afloat was the stimulus packages. What was nice was that money that they gave to everyday Joe, they spent locally,” said co-owner John Kennedy.
Royal Oaks is known for being on the show “Bar Rescue.”
“After Bar Rescue, we were a destination,” Kennedy said.
Since COVID-19 hit, there have been no out-of-towners, only regulars. The working people in Youngstown stopping in for happy hour are the ones who have kept the doors open.
“I have some die hard, loyal to the royal customers and they are our bread and butter,” Kennedy said.
“I don’t care if the big chains close because they’re a big chain. It’s the local ones you want to stay open. They’re the ones that need the money. They need the business, they need the takeout, they need the support by the local people,” said customer John Vivo.
As for the curfew moving to 11 p.m., that won’t help them out much.
“Not really. Actually, because part of the whole COVID thing is we can’t find workers. Even though it was 10 p.m. curfew, we’ve been closing at 8 p.m. We don’t physically have the workers,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy has put out applications for workers but says people aren’t biting because of unemployment benefits. They are down about 60-65% from 2019, but he says they’re gonna make it to 20 years.
“We hung out this long. I’m not going anywhere yet so keep the faith,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy is hoping he can find cooks and bartenders so he can stay open longer to serve more customers. He says that way, they could open for lunch and dinner hours.