Best bar


Abigail Griffith

“Best Bar” winner, Zephyr Pub, is located at 106 W. Main St.

Jacob Shondel, Reporter

FIRST: Zephyr Pub

Zephyr Pub has something for everyone, according to general manager Josh Sed. The bar features a space for listening to live music, watching drag shows, playing pool or just sitting back with friends while enjoying a drink.

“We don’t have any fancy cocktails or anything like that,” Sed said. “So I can’t say it’s just one thing or another, but I know it’s just a place for people to be.”

Sed said people are excited live music has returned to downtown.

“The Kent music scene was pretty lacking before we started,” he said. “People have been really excited about live music being back, so we’ve been trying to get that scene back.”

Zephyr has three floors and a patio which is popular during the warmer months.

“The size obviously helps quite a bit,” Sed said. “And there’s a third level that is open during weekends.”

Sed believes Zephyr stands out with its shows and live music.

“The outside shows are always fun; we’ve been able to have some big ones last summer,” he said. “We have some plans for bigger shows this year.”

Sed was able to get the rock ‘n’ roll scene back with the help of one of his bartenders, Matt Yunk, who won Best of Kent’s Best Bartender this year.

“He used to work at the Stone Tavern, which had a lot of rock ‘n’ roll going on over there,” he said. “And when he started bar backing here after the Stone Tavern closed, he was pushing for live music.”

Sed said Zephyr is a versatile bar.

“We’re not just a sports bar, not just a dance club,” Sed said. “We will have sports on and you can do whatever on the third floor on the weekends, plus the music gives everyone a chance to like something about our place.”

Sed takes pride in everyone feeling like they belong inside Zephyr Pub.

“We’re pretty inclusive, and that has always been one of my main things,” he said. “Keeping it open, and we want everybody to want to come to the bar.”

SECOND: Ray’s Place

Grandparents, parents and current students have stopped by Ray’s Place since 1937.

Thomas, who has owned the spot for over 40 years, said the old tavern style of his bar is a unique environment.

“The only thing we did, many years ago, converted the upstairs, which was a band bar, into more seating,” he said. “We’re definitely going to stick with the tavern style; you don’t want to fix something that is not broken.”

Thomas said customers keep coming back for the bar’s Long Island Iced Teas.

 Ray’s Place, which was voted second in the Best Bar category, is located at 135 Franklin Ave. (Emma Van Winkle)

“Those seem to always be a popular choice no matter what the occasion is,” Thomas said. “We also have quite an array and different types of beers. Our food menu is extensive and quite large, and everything on it sells really well.”

Thomas said his employees have made Ray’s Place the bar to go to.
“We get remarks all the time because our employees are really good at what they do,” he said. “They offer great customer service, which has been important over the years.”

THIRD: Water Street Tavern

If someone’s looking for a place to go after a Kent State sporting event or somewhere to watch road games, Water Street Tavern has the space.

“We’ve been pretty focused on being local with the Flashes,” owner Michael Beder said. “Really just a lot of pride of being Kent and affiliated with Kent State events.”

From the fish bowls to the current 110-ounce red solo cup drinks, Beder and his staff provide the community with special deals.

“We have our lady’s night and have these specials for $1, our happy hour goes till 9 p.m. every
day, and there are 40 or 50 drinks that are just $3,” he said. “We have our ‘F’it Buckets’ that are 32 ounces and are $8. We know students are budget conscious, so we try to help them out where we can.”

“Best Bartender” nominee, Mike Haney, pours a drink at Water Street Tavern at 132 S. Water St.

Being able to adjust to students over the years has been a priority, Beder said.

“We’ve done a good job over time staying relevant with students,” he said, “and what they’re looking for in a bar in terms of music and specials.”

Beder said being a part of Kent has meant a lot over the past 20 years.

“I was a student here, and I graduated in 2000,” he said. “So to see us stick around for all this time, and every year more alumni and people come back because we were the place they went to – it’s very meaningful.”

Jacob Shondel is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected]