The Mine Tavern perseveres through adversity and remains the longest operating bar in Ohio
By Marisa Salopek
Ohio’s longest operating bar rebuilds and continues operation through changes in regional economy, national policies and even the tragic death of an owner. Open since 1842, The Mine Tavern welds a rich history, witnessing coal mining to the prohibition era and its now diverse crowd in the present day.
“The only history that we understand that has been passed down from elders that have come in is it started as a dining hall for the hotel,” says The Mine Tavern co-manager Joseph Koker.
The Mine Tavern has been passed down through seven different families since its inception. Koker and co-manager Andrea Conner took the helm in 2016 after the 2015 shooting death of previous owner, Tim Koker, Joseph’s brother and Conner’s ex-husband.Since acquiring the bar, they have not changed much as they like to keep the design the same. Koker says previous customers come in and admire the same unique ceiling design they sat under years ago.
“It’s been the same forever,” Conner says. “We’re finding out that it is actually very important because for people that’s part of the draw for why they come in, kind of to see the décor.”
But what both Koker and Conner say has been the most compelling aspect to the business is the bright personalities of the owners throughout the years. Koker says after the loss of his brother, fully reopening and getting the tavern back under their feet was difficult, and they restarted by only being open one day a month.
“Tim hadsuch a large personality,” Koker says. “His personality actually was much larger than the business. Most of the owners in the past and the owners that I remember, all of their personalities were larger than the business so that’s hard to overcome.”
Both Koker and Conner find many guests come in nostalgic, having visited 30 years ago when they were in college, happy to see the bar has not changed. Koker says that with their promotion and use of social media, they’ve been able to cater to a younger crowd for the first time. The tavern hosts a wide variety of guests on any given day from college-aged students, to locals and blue-collar workers.
“It’s nice that we can have locals, plus you can have an executive in here at the same time all eating lunch or drinking a beer and hanging out that it works,” Conner says.Considering the economic turmoil in Southeast Ohio, The Mine Tavern emphasizes the importance of serving and offering a menu at affordable prices.
“It is important because we want all classes to be able to come in and eat and drink and we try to keep prices pretty low, or at least comparable with other places in town,” Conner says.
The Mine Tavern is located at 14 Public Square in Nelsonville. The operating hours are 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. If you’re looking for a juicy burger, a cold beer or just some good company, The Mine Tavern remains open and ready.
Southeast Ohio strives to spotlight the culture and community within our 21-county region and aims to inform, entertain and inspire readers with stories that hit close to home. Southeast Ohio is the first student-produced regional magazine in the country. Every semester, approximately 25 students enrolled in Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism produce an issue of the magazine, which is published in print twice a year. The staff generates story ideas, conducts interviews, writes stories and designs the magazine in only 15 weeks. The magazine has won several Regional Mark of Excellence Awards from the Society of Professional Journalists.