Update: So that sale of the fabled Harbor Inn that we and others reported on back in late August? (See original story below.) It never went through. It was delayed amidst some problems in transferring the liquor license and in the meantime there was a change in who would be managing the property.
Now Kim Kercher and Kem Kamola, who are part of the investor group that's an affiliate of the Jacobs Investments, Inc., will be taking over the best bar in America. The question is whether it will still be the best bar in America. Whereas the previous managers in waiting weren't going to change much, Kercher and Kamola aim to change quite a bit.
Via Michelle Jarboe of the PD:
"Kenny and I will just tweak it," said Kercher, who has worked with sports bars and local restaurant chains during the last two decades. "We're going to keep the ambiance here, but we're going to give it a little elbow grease, if you will."
We're going to keep the ambiance here, but we're going to give it a little elbow grease, if you will."
Kercher and Kamola, who will oversee the kitchen, are part of the investor group that acquired the business. Their hands-on management role will start Jan. 4, and patrons quickly could see changes to the menu and the beer lineup.
Kamola expects to keep the kitchen, which closes after lunch, open until 7 p.m. Happy hour will get longer. The bar could open on Sundays starting in the spring. Familiar daily lunch specials will disappear. And the Harbor Inn will introduce table service, after years of taking walk-up orders at the kitchen window.
"You've got to kind of bring this up to the 2000s," Kamola said. "It's exciting to think that we get to keep a Cleveland landmark alive."
Other changes will include addition of draft beer; a winnowing of the bottled-beer supply, which includes 100 labels spanning the globe; and new arcade games.
New arcade games... table service... you've got to bring it up to the 2000s...
(Original story 8/31/2015) Cleveland was nervous when the news started spreading that King Wally had put the incomparable and irreplaceable Harbor Inn up for sale. What would new owners do? Hipsterize it? Tear it down? Try to, god forbid, improve it?
Well, the bar and building have finally sold and we've got good news: nothing much at all should change.
"The paperwork should be final either today or tomorrow," says Mike Mercer. "The Jacobs Entertainment Group bought the property and building. Obviously because it's in the middle of the Nautica complex, it makes sense. I am taking over the operation, buying the business of the Harbor Inn and will leave it exactly the way it is."
Mercer has a long history in the Flats, previously owning Howl at the Moon and Club Coconuts.
"We're going to clean it up a bit and put some elbow grease into the corners," says Mercer. "But other than that, we're not planning many changes. We're going to add some draft beer and resurrect the late night and evening food service component — we're excited to bring back the Harbor burger. We're not going to do daily specials. Wally's sister Elizabeth was there forever, and she was a great cook and we could never compare to her stuff for lunch. She's taking retirement so we're not going to do that, just evenings."
Mercer also notes that the Harbor will still be the home of the Cleveland Darter Club.
Long live, Wally. Long live the Harbor Inn.