Venice Café Sold to Water Street Tavern Owner

Mike Beder to take over bar founded in 1941 by Kent's Ricciardi family

The Venice Café, founded 72 years ago by a Kent family, has been sold. Credit: Matt Unger
The Venice Café, founded 72 years ago by a Kent family, has been sold. Credit: Matt Unger

Today marks the end of an era, as the Ricciardi family, owners of the Venice Café, hand over the keys to the bar the family founded in 1941 on Franklin Avenue.

The Ricciardis have sold the bar operation to Kent businessman Mike Beder, owner of the Water Street Tavern and co-owner of Tree City Coffee.

Beder said the deal has been under consideration for the past two to three years since the family contacted him about the idea of taking over the business.

“I’ve loved that place for a long, long time,” Beder said. “I appreciate that the Ricciardis contacted me about this, and I’m excited to keep the legacy of the Venice going.”

Beder’s interest in the bar spans a decade. The 2000 graduate of Kent State University opened his first business, then called Glory Days, in a small location on North Water Street in 2002, but he knew right away he wanted to find a bigger space.

That desire prompted Beder to slide a letter under the door of the Venice offering to buy the bar if the family ever decided to sell it.

“When Rosario (Ricciardi) contacted me a couple of years ago I brought up that story, and he said ‘Yea we get about three of those a week,’” Beder said.

Beder’s love of the iconic Kent pub means patrons can expect much of the flavor of the bar to remain. Its murals, wooden booths and general atmosphere will stay the same.

Changes customers can look forward to include plans to offer food service from nearby Taco Tonto’s, and Beder plans to introduce a nano-brew operation in cooperation with Tallmadge, OH, based Label Peelers.

“We bought a system for brewing beer in small batches,” Beder said. “It’s a production level right under micro-brewing.”

A redesigned logo for the bar looks more like an old-school beer label, and Beder is toying with the idea of replacing the glass-block windows at the corner of Erie Street and Franklin Avenue with see-through windows.

“It’s a fine line we want to walk between keeping what makes the Venice a neat place and modernizing it so it can compete with all the new stuff that’s popped up recently,” he said.

Beder is hopeful to reopen the bar by the end of August with some of the new changes in place.

As owner of the Venice, Beder will own two of downtown Kent’s popular night spots with ownership in the city’s newest coffee shop. Having such investments was something Beder said he never imagined when he first opened Water Street Tavern.

“It was just a happy accident,” he said.

Joseph Grabiel August 08, 2013 at 03:25 PM
The Venice! Iconic Water Street bar/tavern. Great place during the 1970's to shoot a game of pool and down a beer or iced tea at 2 in the afternoon. I here recently the food is outstanding. Hate to see it change too much (after all, we no longer have Jerry's up the street!).
derek smalls September 09, 2013 at 07:05 PM
This is sad. Turning it into a boutique corporate sh*thole. The best parts of the place are what this idiot is changing. The dark, past its prime romance of the place gone. No respect for history.
Vincent R. Komenda September 09, 2013 at 10:20 PM
Don't fret Derek, Ravenna beckons you and is only minutes away in your horse and buggy. Plenty of "dark, past its prime" bars there. You can sit at dilapidated dim lit booths and carouse with fellow drunkards while you reminisce about the good old days, as the smell of urine and 100 years of smoke wafts about. The Ravenna renaissance is sooo much better than the one in Kent, eh?


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