Brew tour taps deep into uptown Athens' saloon history

The photo at left shows the Graduate bar on West Union, circa ’70s. At right, the building as it looks today, holding Jackie O's Brewery.

If plans proceed as hoped, the Union Bar & Grill should reopen soon, and Jackie O’s Pub & Brewery’s Public House also should reopen fully within a relatively similar time span, the businesses’ owners said last week.

The rebuilt and renovated Union will open its doors in “a matter of weeks,” the bar’s co-owner Eric Gunn said last week, although he hesitated to give a specific date during a phone interview.

Jackie O’s Public House has been open intermittently as a bar, typically for special events during weekends (as in recent weeks), ever since a November 2014 fire on West Union Street burned The Union’s roof off (which also housed Jackie O’s kitchen for the Public House). The Union has been closed ever since.

The Union has been rebuilding its entire upstairs and downstairs space, and the new bar will feature a new outdoor patio, as well as a downstairs bar-top made entirely out of scorched wood taken from the bar’s burned roof joists.

Jackie O’s Public House should be open full-time within the next few weeks, depending on “state approvals and health department” inspections, Jackie O’s owner Art Oestrike said last week. The bar has been relying on a small kitchen in the business’ brewery side on West Union Street. The Public House is a much bigger facility adjacent to that brew-pub with a larger kitchen.

Oestrike said the Public House will become a full-scale, sit-down restaurant when it reopens, with a menu featuring new items and an enhanced capacity to use local ingredients in the dishes. The new menu will be possible with the help of a new prep room built within the Public House, he said.

The Public House also will feature 28 beer taps (where it had 20 before), with two taps devoted permanently to brews from recently opened Athens breweries Devil’s Kettle and Little Fish Brewing Company.

The Union owners initially hoped to reopen the bar by April 17, at least according to a post on the bar’s Facebook page announcing it had job openings. But the bar was not open as of yesterday (Sunday, April 17). In a post last Thursday, the bar announced its “back bar” on the ground floor was almost complete. The bar also has a new pool table.


IN OTHER BEER-RELATED news, Little Fish has announced that it’s releasing the “first commercially brewed beer with all Ohio ingredients” at 3 p.m. on April 24. The beer will be called “No Fracking Way” in order to raise awareness about “the impact fracking can have on our local farmers.” There are no horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracking) wells currently operating or proposed in Athens County, though there are fracking-waste injection wells.

The beer is made from barley grown and malted in Marysville, Ohio, and cascade and Columbus hops from Maineville, Ohio. A dollar and a half will be donated from each pint sold to Athens Regional Food Policy Council Energy Initiatives.

Devil’s Kettle owner Cameron Fuller said last month that he’s in the process of applying for a grant to put 80-plus solar panels on his Columbus Road business to power at least a third of its energy needs, and possibly as much as two-thirds or three-quarters of his power in the off-season (winter months.)

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