The Brooklands Bar: former Goodyear Heights’ speakeasy still draws a crowd

Writing, reporting and photos by Emily Anderson

It’s hard to drive through Goodyear Heights and not feel a little haunted by the bustle that existed long ago. Overlooking the Goodyear campus and downtown, the entire neighborhood was developed as a place to house, feed and entertain rubber workers and their families in the early 20th century. 

One member of the Heights community, Craig Sipe, is determined to bring new life into his block of the neighborhood. He bought The Brooklands Bar seven years ago and has since been buying and restoring the surrounding properties as well. 

Sipe was attracted to The Brooklands for its history. Named after the street it’s on, which is named after a racetrack in England, the industrial-looking brick building was built in 1927, in the middle of Prohibition. With such a high concentration of blue-collar workers in the area, it’s no wonder the building was soon a fully-functioning speakeasy, complete with a false entrance. 

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I stopped by The Brooklands Bar on a cold, cloudless afternoon in March. It took my eyes a moment to adjust to the darkness inside. Although this building has changed hands many times over the last century, it remains surprisingly unchanged — almost like a time capsule. 

The Brooklands Bar looks like a speakeasy from the ’20s — not the fancy cocktail bars we think of today when we hear “speakeasy.” Just like the neighborhood outside, you can imagine this room filled up with old-timey whiskey drinkers and cigarette smoke. The walls are dark grey and dotted with historic Akron memorabilia, all pieces from Sipe’s extensive personal collection. 

Once my vision adjusted, I found myself standing at the bar already — it’s directly in front of the entrance. At the far end, I can make out a handful of white-haired drinkers. One woman was behind the bar, smiling at me with a look that said, “Funny seeing you here.” 

I tell the bartender who I am and I’m directed to the office upstairs where Sipe is waiting for me. He has two huge TVs on the walls of his office feeding him footage from the many security cameras on the property, along with a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag. I make a note to myself not to tread on him during this interview. 

Sipe gave me a walking tour of The Brooklands and his surrounding properties. Despite the drab, historical vibes inside the bar, Sipe has a much more modern vision for the rest of the block.

Right now, his main project is a large building a few doors down that he’s converting into a banquet hall. The inside is quite beautiful — the walls are covered in reclaimed barn wood, and there’s a long bar that once lived in the basement of St. Bernard’s church. 

Sipe shows me the dog-friendly patio area outside of The Brooklands, pointing out where the new pavilion will go for live music, and we both decide it’s too cold to stay out any longer. He’s excited to go back inside and show me what seems to be his favorite addition to the bar: the Thackerburger. 

Thacker’s was a burger joint that operated from 1921-1980. They moved once — from East Exchange and Bowery to East Market and Kelly Avenue, but were always hugely popular among rubber workers and students. 

My grandfather, who went to East High School in the 1950s, remembers going to Thacker’s to hang out after school and eat 15-cent burgers. The slider-style Thackerburger was served with onions, pickles, mustard and a “secret sauce.” No ketchup allowed. 

Sipe now owns the Thacker’s trademark and believes he has successfully replicated the secret Thacker sauce. He even uses the same buns from Massoli’s that Thacker’s used.  

I can’t tell you how closely they match up to the original, but I can tell you they’re delicious — and the perfect greasy food to be washed down by a light beer. 

Sipe still has a lot of work ahead of him, but his optimism and energy are strong. After spending most of his life in the tire industry, like his parents and grandparents before him, he’s on a mission to leave his mark on the neighborhood. “My goal is to let people know about this place,” he tells me. “Not to make it only a neighborhood bar, but a destination.” 

Emily Anderson is really into bars and beers. Check out all her adventures on Instagram @ladybeerdrinker

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