Struck down only 3 days after opening, Tender Mercy bar rallies around employees

Tender Mercy, an underground cocktail bar that was years in the making underneath the Avant-Garde Building at 607 E. Third St. in Dayton, was forced by the coronavirus pandemic to shut down only three days after it fully opened to the public.

>> Dayton's most popular bourbon bar hit hard but will survive, its co-owner vows

Co-founder Chris Dimmick admits it was a blow. But, he said: “We’re making lemonade.”

When bars are allowed to start serving again, “We’ll definitely have a grand re-opening celebration,” Dimmick said. “We’ve had a lot of practice in the last couple of weeks. We’ll be able to turn it back on when we’re ready to.”

>> Which Dayton-area restaurants are offering carryout, delivery and curbside service?

In the meantime, Dimmick said his focus is on keeping his staff financially stable. Tender Mercy is selling gift cards that will receive a 19 percent boost in value (a $100 gift card will have a value of $119 when redeemed).

>> Sneak peek inside downtown Dayton's stunning new 'underground' bar

The gift cards are available to individuals or corporate entities that could hold a future event at the bar. Proceeds from the sales of gift cards will “directly subsidize our work family,” Dimmick said. Gift cards up to $500 are available on Tender Mercy’s web site, and larger amounts can be processed via email at

>> PHOTOS: Our first look inside Tender Mercy, downtown Dayton's new upscale bar

Tender Mercy employees who put in hours at local food banks and other non-profit organizations are getting paid to do so by the bar, the Tender Mercy co-founder said.

>> Local restaurant chain to add groceries to its menu during shutdown

The bar’s owners also are gearing up to launch a line of merchandise to support the staff, Dimmick said.

“We have about 24 employees total, and we will keep all 24,” he said.

Starting today, March 20, Tender Mercy will have beer and wine available for online order, with curbside pickups every Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Dimmick said.

About the Author