Franklin Hotel Bar aims to add new vibe to Kent bar scene


Customers eat and drink inside downtown Kent’s new Franklin Hotel Bar on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2016. Aside from booths, tables and a bar, the establishment also has a lounge area, complete with armchairs placed around an artificial fireplace. 

Benjamin VanHoose

Students may have a new checkpoint on their local bar crawl routines when they return to Kent for the spring semester. That is, as long as they are up for a decidedly different type of bar atmosphere.

Filling the below-ground vacancy left by the Secret Cellar’s closure earlier this year, the Franklin Hotel Bar — with its exposed brick, low lighting and secluded venue — was formulated to transport guests to a specific environment.

“(The location) fit into our concept perfectly,” said owner Mike Beder. “It all played into the relaxed atmosphere and ambiance we were going for.”

Since its opening last week, Beder said traffic to the bar has remained steady.

“People found us pretty quick,” Beder said. “We did some good volume, but not too much that our staff couldn’t handle it.”

Opening between semesters is proving advantageous to Beder, who said it allowed him and his team to “ease into our atmosphere and dial in our service.”

Franklin Hotel Bar is also owned by Ron Burbick — owner of Acorn Alley and Acorn Corner — and Mike Awad — owner of Laziza and Main Street Continental Grill. Beder is also the owner of Water Street Tavern, Venice Cafe and Tree City Coffee.

Beder said differentiating Franklin Hotel Bar from his other establishments was important so as not to “cannibalize himself.”

“I view Water Street Tavern as a party bar for students … (and) Venice is more laid back with classic bar games,” he said. “Franklin Hotel Bar is catering to an older crowd that wants to have a conversation with who they came with, and is willing to spend a little more.”

Since the Franklin Hotel Bar is geared to what he believes is an “underserved market” in Kent, Beder said he understands if students choose to skip it during their late night bar outings.

“Honestly, I don’t expect too many students to seek us out,” he said. “I think our target market is more so Kent State staff, faculty and coaches, along with the Kent community.”

That doesn’t mean there will be a “no students allowed” sign posted anytime soon. There are some instances Beder could see younger customers choosing the bar’s upscale, mature setting.

“Maybe (it could be) for couples who want to go on a nice date or groups of upper classmen looking to get away from the college bar scene for a bit,” he said.

Junior nursing major Trevor Pesicek celebrated his 21st birthday at the Franklin Hotel Bar last week. He said he could see himself going back often.

“It is more of a classy bar that has a warm, relaxed feeling,” Pesicek said. “It’s a great place to bring friends or family, but I will say it is not a restaurant for the younger kids.”

The bar offers specialty drinks and gourmet foods, including Chile-Cumin Lamb Meatballs and a Shrimp / Chorizo Flatbread, seen below.

“The menu was set up for sharing and enjoying with our cocktails, craft beers and expansive wine list,” Beder said.

Historical significance is associated with the name of the bar, as it rests in the lowest level of what used to be the Franklin Hotel. Burbick spearheaded the renovation of the building, which now houses a Buffalo Wild Wings and other businesses.

“The building has been empty for over 30 years,” Burbick said in a 2012 KentWired article prior to the project’s completion. “It can now make Kent more of a living, thriving location.”

The Franklin Hotel Bar was originally projected to open its doors this past summer. Beder’s only explanation for the delay: “Good things take time.”

Benjamin VanHoose is the features editor for the Kent Stater, contact him at [email protected]