words and photos by Charlee Harris

A new wave of young professionals is looking to change Akron’s social scene, and at the forefront of that wave is Erica Banks and her business partner Kameron Alexander. The two own Social 8, a new restaurant and social lounge in Merriman Valley.

“We wanted to create something a little different, not just a normal bar or restaurant. A nice fusion of both, a social house,” Erica says.  

Erica’s birthday is on Aug. 8 and her partner Kameron’s is on March 18. “Eight is our lucky number, hence Social 8,” she says. 

After years of working at popular local eateries, Erica noticed a void in the scene. She’d always wanted to start her own business but was fearful. “I was working at a nightclub in downtown Akron when my business partner Kameron approached me with an idea,” she says. 

Kameron was Erica’s manager at the time, but “His idea was right along with the ideas that I had,” she says. “Him being a general manager and me having years of experience bartending, it was easy for us to work together.” 

Soon after Erica and Kameron joined forces, they opened the doors to Social 8 on Aug. 18, 2018.

Social 8 is located in the Valley on Merriman Road. The bar has one of the best happy hour menus in the city, with $5 drink specials from 5-9 pm on weekdays and $0.65 wings on Wednesdays. The drink menu has a local flair and something for any age group. 

“Everyone is welcome,” Erica says. “My mom and her girlfriends have their own booth and they come every Saturday to hear the DJ, and my partner’s grandmother will make appearances also. It is a very comfortable atmosphere here.” 

Comfortable indeed. As I interviewed Erica, I took the opportunity to sample the menu. The food menu at Social 8 is diverse, with a little twist on gastro pub norms. They have everything from lamb to chicken wings in quantities of eight. I opted for the fried cauliflower with spicy Barbijon sauce, and although it was earlier in the day, I was sure it was five o’clock somewhere, so I ordered the Raspberry Surprise off the drink menu. 

Erica personally prepared my Raspberry Surprise, which is a drink both beautiful in appearance and balanced in taste. The cauliflower arrived shortly after my drink and was delightfully crispy with a sweet and savory sauce. As I ate, I noticed all the artwork from local artists and participants at Social 8’s sip ‘n’ paint events. 

Social 8 is truly a social house, offering karaoke and line dancing every Thursday night. Their house DJ spins every Friday and Saturday night and they host special events on Sundays like hip-hop-themed sip ‘n’ paints and live bands. They are also available for private events — just come to them with an idea and they will make it happen. 

Erica, a Firestone High School graduate, hopes she and Kameron can open more locations in the future. 

Social 8 

Wednesday and Thursday 5-11 pm; Friday and Saturday 5 pm-2 am

1800 Merriman Rd., Akron 

AkronSocial8.com and @Social8_

Charlee Harris was born and raised in Akron, Ohio. She loves her family, her community and has a passion for creative expression. As an avid arts advocate, she volunteers for the Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance, is the creative director for the East Ave. Flea Market and has contributed to many local projects. 

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