by Emily Anderson
Highland Square is one of the most beloved neighborhoods in Akron. I’ve always thought the best part of the area is that glorious row of dive bars on Market Street. They’re dark, loud, unpredictable, affordable, and always a good time. The Matinee in particular has always been my favorite. It has great beer, great music, great staff and great patrons. Who cares if it stays cold in the winter and hot in the summer? The Matinee has always treated me with kindness, understanding and delicious sandwiches from the attached Mr. Zub’s Deli.
When a mysterious building appeared across the street from my favorite watering hole and people were saying that it was going to be the new location for The Matinee and the other bars, I decided get some answers from someone who would know what was going on — Mario Nemr, owner of The Matinee, Mr. Zub’s Deli, Capri Pizza and Thursday’s Lounge.
Mario and his cousin Ray, who owns Ray’s Pub, decided to go in together on buying the land across the street from their current locations and building a new facility for their businesses. They were ready for an upgrade and saw a perfect opportunity to start their bars from scratch, fixing everything they’ve struggled with over the years. The new building is huge, with three separate 5,000 square foot spaces on the first floor and three luxury two-bedroom apartments on the second floor that will be up for rent. There’s a giant cement patio out front and 60 new parking spaces in the back.
The original plan was for one of the bottom spaces to be Ray’s, one to be a combination of The Matinee, Capri Pizza and Zub’s, and one to be rented to a third business. Moving forward with this plan, Mario and everyone who loves The Matinee began feeling uneasy about moving to a new location. Mario has had the Matinee for ten years, the last two of which have been the best ever. Taking this all into consideration, and being forced to either sign a new three-year lease for The Matinee or temporarily close it until the new building was finished, Mario decided to leave The Matinee where it is.
“The more I thought about it, it wouldn’t be the same,” he says, having signed a new lease to stay put.
While he’s leaving The Matinee where it is, Zub’s is still moving across the street. The new Zub’s will look a lot like old Zub’s: a counter at the end of the room with a kitchen behind it and booths in the space up front. The exception? This Zub’s will have its own full-service bar with 20 taps. The kitchen will feature both the familiar Zub’s menu and the Capri menu, so you’ll be able to get pizza and wings along with your Uncle Rico, if you so desire.
The current Capri space will close. The current Zub’s will change to a different food venue, scaling down the menu to different varieties of oven and skillet cooked macaroni and cheese. Mario’s wife, Tiffany, has been using her cooking skills to come up with the recipes. The smaller, simpler menu will work better in that space and the dining area will have a ‘70s theme (think Cheech and Chong).
Mario is most excited about having enough space to accommodate their growth at Zub’s, about 20 percent a year. Soon, they’ll be able to provide guests with a more family-friendly atmosphere where they can get food and drink without being “Matinee-ed.” The bar and table tops are being made out of refinished bowling alley wood, and the front bar and walls are covered with 100-year-old barn wood that Mario salvaged himself.
“I’m not doing anything else after this, so it better work!” he says.
We can look forward to a grand opening in July or August of this year. Ray’s is further ahead may open sooner. Although the plan has changed along the way and taken about twice as long as planned, Mario is really happy with his decision to start the project.
“It’s all done right, no half-assing” he says.
Emily Anderson is really excited about the new Zub’s. To see what she thinks about the opening, follow her on Twitter @ohiobeergirl
(PHOTOS: M. Sophie Hamad/The Devil Strip)