- Jim Ingram
One characteristic of most dive bars is how light they are on frills. Shroyer Inn located at 1028 Shroyer Rd. where Dayton, Kettering and Oakwood all converge has but a few -- and that’s alright with the regular crowd who pack the place most weekends.
“If it’s not broke, I’m not going to fix it,” owner Butch Elder said.
Aside from a jukebox, some dart boards and a pool table, Shroyer Inn -- affectionately nicknamed “The Shroyer” -- is a bar that knows what it is and doesn’t attempt to be what it is not. So how does a bar with absolutely zero web presence, no karaoke and no trivia night become a finalist for the Best of Dayton 2016? Word of mouth and little else.
Originally named the Shroyer Inn when it opened 65 years ago, the bar changed hands -- and names-- two times before Elder purchased the place at the turn of the century, restoring the original name. A chance meeting with an acquaintance who knew he was in the market changed everything.
“I was looking for a bar to buy. Basically, I just stumbled across it,” Elder said.
Aside from a fresh coat of paint here and there, new carpet every few years and updated television screens, very little has changed in 18 years. But some big developments could be on the horizon for this Little Bar That Could. Elder says he wants to expand Shroyer Inn into the vacant space next door, and has discussed the possibility with the building’s owner. However, the two parties have yet to come to an agreement.
From outside, Shroyer Inn doesn’t look like much. Stepping inside is like a blast from the past with tall cushy chairs that look they were new when Gerald Ford was in office. All that aside, the place is clean. In fact, you can find Elder cleaning it himself every morning before the bartenders come in.
A nice, long L-shaped bar greats you as you settle into the low-lit atmosphere.
Despite not having a real kitchen, Shroyer Inn can heat up frozen pizzas, sandwiches, or a soft pretzel. But one of their best attractions is the free hot dog bar every Sunday. That’s right -- FREE.
But, if you’ll pardon the expression, Shroyer Inn’s bread and butter is its reputation for cheap beers.
“I’ve got $2 22-ounce drafts. That’s what brings them in,” Elder said.
You might think this is a bad business model, but Elder -- who used tend bar, but now leaves it up to his employees -- says the bar has shown an increased profit every year since he took over.
“I did my time in the first 10 years. I was here 24-7. Then I got it running efficiently. (I have) good employees. It’s been great.”
Shroyer Inn has a built-in crowd of regulars who are always friendly to newcomers. It’s a nice mix of age groups from the twenty-somethings on up. Elder said he worked hard to clear out any problem regulars when he took over and has seen few issues since.
As previously mentioned, the lighting is dimmed, but not to the point where you can’t see what’s going on. It’s more comforting than anything else.
When Ohio’s smoking ban went into effect, Elder had a patio built behind the building to accommodate smokers or people who just want to enjoy a drink outside.
“The beers are super cheap, like stupid cheap!” one recent Yelp review reads. That’s not a lie and might explain why Shroyer Inn manages to maintain a younger crowd despite the lack of trivia or karaoke.
Next to the cheap beer, this is probably the establishment’s greatest asset. The bartenders treat rookies like regulars and the regulars like royalty. The staff clearly enjoys working for Elder since all of them have been at the Shroyer Inn 10 years or more.
“I love the Shroyer Inn. The bartenders there are like family,” regular patron Patrick Berry said. “I know Butch doesn't care for the term 'dive bar', but I love dive bars and the Shroyer has been my favorite for years.”
Whether the Shroyer Inn gets to expand or not, Elder says he has no intention of selling the business anytime soon.
“I’ve got to be here a little while yet. At least I want to be,” he said.
Despite its small size, this bar is made mighty with its impeccable staff and cheap prices. It’s perfect for getting out of the house for a couple hours for a game of pool and a couple drinks. The place does get packed out on most Friday and Saturday nights, so you may want to get there earlier on those nights.
Overall, it’s easy to see why so many people call the Shroyer Inn the best bar of its kind in Dayton.View full experience