NELSONVILLE, Ohio — One of Ohio’s oldest operating bars — now under new ownership — continues to be a beacon of community in Nelsonville, now under the ownership of the Norway family.
Owners Becky and Ron Norway and their son Patrick acquired The Mine Tavern, at 14 Public Square in Nelsonville, from Joseph Koker this past spring. The Norways are the eighth family to own the establishment since it opened in 1842.
The family are longtime customers of the bar and grill, and both Norway sons worked at the Mine for years. Patrick is now the general manager.
“I’ve been coming here a long time,” Ron Norway said, noting that he can recall the barber shop that was formerly located in the present-day Mine. Becky said she’d been coming to the Mine since her family moved to Nelsonville, at age 15.
“We’ve kicked around this idea for probably two years,” Ron said. “We tweaked the menu a little bit, brought back lunches and added items to the menu as well.”
It’s been important to the Norways to keep the Mine’s prices affordable — “cheaper than anywhere,” Becky said.
“That’s one of the big things that we really tried to work on,” Patrick added. “Especially with inflation, growing food costs, we’re still able to keep our wings at 50 cents, because we do care about the area.”
The Norways hope to maintain the Mine’s historical interior while also updating its upstairs, formerly a hotel, to make an apartment for Patrick and storage for the business.
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“The way it’s being ran right now, we have no — there’s no changes going to be made whatsoever for the inside [of the establishment],” Ron said. That includes the treasured, century-old tin detailings.
“You have to modernize while still respecting the past,” Patrick said.
The Mine’s history is “elusive,” said Nelsonville Public Library Local History Librarian Lorinda LeClain. It is known to be one of the oldest bars in Ohio; Ye Olde Trail Tavern in Yellow Springs predates the Mine by only 15 years.
“I believe it started out as a saloon in the Dew House, which makes sense, and then grew from there,” LeClain said in an email. The earliest reference to the Mine she could find in The Athens Messenger dated back to 1919, “when Billy Watkins took over the Mine Saloon at the Dew Hotel.” At the same address in 1922, LeClain found an ad for The Blue Lantern Soda Grill, owned by C.H and W.Q. Newton.
The Norway family aspires to keep the Mine a “family-friendly environment,” Patrick said. “Ideally, what we want is for a football game to end over at the city park, and all the families come over here and you got 14 kids run around a pool table — and their parents, they’re having a pitcher of beer and talking about their plans and the city.”
Such community and camaraderie is what drives the Norways to operate their business. For Patrick specifically, it’s seeing the gratitude from customers who not only patronize the business but are a part of the space.
When asked what motivates him to work in the service industry, Patrick replied, “Watching my friends bring their kids in here after a football game, order in 40 wings and they have two pitchers of beer. And at the end of the day, they tell me, ‘Thank you so much for having this place the way it is.’”
For Patrick, the Mine is a place that holds memories — “if the seats can talk and tell some of the stories.” He’s seen colleagues meet their spouses at the bar, swap stories and mourn with friends and family.
Becky and Ron recalled how vibrant the Public Square was when they were growing up, the Mine included. “When I was a kid, it was fantastic,” Ron said.
“This is where the kids hung out,” Becky said. “You were on the square or you drove around the square a couple of times and then hung out. It was a place for the kids to go.”
The family has received tremendous support from the Nelsonville community, Ron said. Patrick hopes to host more special events, including live music and comedy shows.
“We just want to grow this place and continue to be very, very active in supporting local groups, especially athletics,” Patrick said.
The Mine is open 11 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday; 11 to 2 a.m. on Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturday. Find more on Facebook.
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