Nemer settles with University

“As Joe Nemer Jr. is interviewed in front of his family’s popular Exchange Street bar, Joe’s Sun Bar and Grill, groups of students wander past, preparing for another Friday night in Akron. Unfortunately, Joe’s Friday nights in University Park are numbered.”

As Joe Nemer Jr. is interviewed in front of his family’s popular Exchange Street bar, Joe’s Sun Bar and Grill, groups of students wander past, preparing for another Friday night in Akron.

Unfortunately, Joe’s Friday nights in University Park are numbered.

For nearly a year, the Nemers have been fighting for their piece of the Zip Strip, resisting the University of Akron’s efforts to expand eastward to build a $32.5 million residence hall on the corner of Exchange and Spicer.

Joe’s cousin, Manny, owns nearby establishments Manny’s Pub, Aroma Coffee and Tea and the building that houses Chopstix.

In June, a probate court jury awarded Joe $3.1 million for the Sun Bar and Grill and other property.  UA promptly appealed, and Summit County

Probate Judge Bill Spicer ordered the lawsuit to be resolved in mediation.

Joe was awarded a total of $2.1 million (including legal fees and cost of relocation), $500,000 less than what the jury awarded but $800,000 more than UA’s original offer.

According to Joe, the University acted several days before new eminent domain laws went into effect, costing him much more money than he could have received.

It’s sad to leave our business, he said.  This is going to be a change for us.  It’s no easy task.

The Nemers are not yet sure where to move the bar, but Joe has a few places in mind.  The only certainty is that the relocation will prove to be a difficult process.  When Joe’s father bought the bar thirty years ago, it took them more than seven years to build it up to how it is today.

Students at the University of Akron have frequented the bar for years, giving it a solid reputation among late-night enthusiasts from Main Street to Spicer.  Even the brightly illuminated sign hanging outside boasts that Joe’s was voted one of the top 100 college bars in the nation by Playboy magazine.

Inside, one can see that there is more bar than grill at Joe’s.  Modestly-priced drinks, nine football-filled televisions, lottery machines, and a robust jukebox give the bar a friendly feel.  Regulars at the bar mingle with first-time Akron students over finger food, steakburgers and wings.

The Sun Bar and Grill was a staple in Akron long before the Nemers took over.  It has been at the same place since 1930, surviving radical change to the area, not to mention Prohibition.

Since he was 13 years old, Joe has been involved with the bar in some fashion.

My dad bought it thirty years ago, and I grew up in this place.  I don’t know life outside this bar, he explained.

Soon, he will not have a choice.  Joe’s Sun Bar and Grill will remain open for four more months, after which it will be razed.

More than likely, Joe will take a break for the winter to make plans for his next venture.  A savvy businessman, Joe said that he and Mona, his wife, will be very cautious in the upcoming months regarding the important decisions for the future of the bar.

I do not want to jump into anything for the sake of jumping into it, he said.

Ironically, the Nemers have always looked forward to the University building an on-campus stadium.

I do like to see progress in the city and improvements to the university.  We’re all for this, he clarified.  We wish this city and the university the best.

Though Joe’s side of the conflict is resolved, Manny and his wife, Colette, go before a trial jury to argue their case on Dec. 2nd. 

Joe’s only comment on the issue: he wishes them luck.

As the interview concludes, a clean-cut middle-aged man approaches the bar.  Greeted by Joe, he asks Is this your place?

It sure is, Joe replies.

I haven’t been here in thirty years, the man says as he stands in the doorway.  Back when I was going to college here. This was the first bar I ever went into.

The man’s brief remark tells a greater story of how many memories (however hazy) and experiences are stored within the bar’s walls.

Students: if you are of age, order a steakburger and a brew at Joe’s Sun Bar and Grill and soak in some of the history before it goes up in construction dust.