Sean McKown, the co-founder and co-owner of the Buckin’ Donkey restaurant and bar on South Dixie Drive in Kettering, died unexpectedly Sunday night, Feb. 9. The Pittsburgh native and avid Steelers fan founded the original Buckin' Donkey on Wilmington Pike in Kettering in 2012.
Photo: Mark Fisher
Photo: Mark Fisher

Co-founder of local pub passes away unexpectedly

Sean McKown was co-owner of the Buckin’ Donkey restaurant-bar in Kettering

The co-founder and co-owner of the Buckin’ Donkey restaurant and bar in Kettering died unexpectedly Sunday night, according to friends and relatives and the restaurant’s Facebook page.

Sean McKown, a Pittsburgh native and avid Steelers fan,  opened the original Buckin’ Donkey Grille on Wilmington Pike in Kettering in 2012. That business closed in 2015, but in 2017, McKown co-founded the Buckin’ Donkey at 2866 S. Dixie Drive in Kettering, replacing the 937 Grill & Tap Room, formerly Murray’s Place.

>> RELATED: Buckin' Donkey to re-open in old Murray’s Place location (August 2017)

“Please keep the (Buckin’ Donkey) family in your prayers today,” employees of the Buckin’ Donkey wrote on the restaurant-bar’s Facebook page Monday. “We lost a wonderful soul last night... Sean McKown, you will be so missed. ... We love you so much! We will have a celebration of life and will keep everybody updated when it will be.”

The restaurant opened today, Feb. 11, as usual. “We will be open today, doing ‘Donkey as usual’ for Sean,” employees said in a Facebook post late this morning. “Please come see us for Taco Tuesday!”

Sean McKown, the co-founder of the Buckin' Donkey in Kettering, shows off some of his restaurant's specialties in August 2018.
Photo: Amelia Robinson

The Monday notice of McKown’s passing prompted an outpouring of grief and support from the pub’s customers and friends. 

“This is a hit to our community,” one commenter wrote. “Sean was a good man with a kind heart.”

>> RELATED: Kettering sports bar changes to restaurant-pub to be called Buckin' Donkey Grille

Shanon Morgan, president of the Miami Valley Restaurant Association, said she was saddened to hear of Sean’s passing.

“Sean has been a long-time member of Dayton’s food community and a good guy,” Morgan told this news outlet. “I admired Sean’s tenacity and unwillingness to give up on his dream! He had quite a few bumps in the road and obstacles with both Buckin’ Donkey locations, but he never gave up. His passion and grit held strong, and he will be greatly missed.”

“I’m sure he’s rooting for his Steelers in the sky tonight,” Morgan said.

>> RELATED: ‘Gourmet bar food’ on the menu at Buckin' Donkey in Kettering (August 2018)

McKown had more than two decades of experience working at several bars and restaurants in the Miami Valley and in Arizona, including Dayton-area establishments Oregon Express, Harrigan’s and Barleycorn’s, prior to opening the first Buckin’ Donkey. He said in 2012 that he had been looking to open his own place for several years.

Another friend and customer, Linda Burton, said she had known McKown for 20 years.

“His food menu was amazing and full of love,” Burton told this news outlet. “We loved his food and presence in the industry. We are so saddened by the news. He was our personal friend.”

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