Ray’s Place to be named Ohio’s first sports bar

A couple sits at the bar during lunchtime at Ray’s Place on April 10, 2013. Ray’s Place will be named as the first sports bar in Ohio on April 22, by the Ohio Licensed Beverage Association. Photo by Jenna Watson.

Yelena Tischenko

The Ohio Licensed Beverage Association will name Ray’s Place the “first sports bar in Ohio” on April 22.

The OLBA will give the title to Ray’s Place owner Charlie Thomas and Patrick O’Connor, Kent State associate professor and author of “Meet Me at Ray’s,” during the Northeast Ohio Bar Expo in Cleveland.

“We had the first television [in a bar] between 1946 and 1948, so we started thinking who else can beat that time frame?” Thomas said. “We think we might even be the first in the country to have a sports bar, but we’d have to look into that first.”

Thomas and O’Connor will be giving a presentation and showing a PowerPoint during the expo. O’Connor researched Ray’s through different libraries and different trade associations, like the OLBA and the National Restaurant Association, thinking they would know some information. He found out that sports bar history has very little background.

“The book was written with the content that came from the memories of the customers and employees,” O’Connor said. “I had no idea that the book would help earn Ray’s Place such a title. It all just found me and is still happening.”

The title of the book actually came from a poll on their website. There were 29 suggestions that came from customers and “Meet Me at Ray’s” was a suggestion made by two Kent State alumni.

“We know in 1948 we started showing sports on television,” Thomas said. “So we know no one was claiming they were the first, so we decided to make that claim.”

O’Connor was excited when he first saw a picture of televisions being installed at Ray’s in the 1940s and got a story about someone who watched the Cleveland Indians win the 1948 World Series. He looked at that and thought it would classify Ray’s as a sports bar.

“Most of the people I knew didn’t have televisions when I was younger, so Ray’s was so forward thinking,” O’Connor said.

Amber Soika, senior music major, said Ray’s Place is a Kent staple and will be a good way to get people into Kent.

“I think it’ll even out the attention from the newer locations that have recently gone up,” she said.

Contact Yelena Tischenko at [email protected].