Downtown bar owner vows to reopen ‘with or without permission’

“What are they going to do, close us all down on the same night and revoke all of our licenses?” owner asks.

The owner of a Dayton dance bar says he is reopening his  business’ doors in little more than a month with or without permission from the government.

"I am running out of money and nobody is helping. At this point, we have nothing to lose," said Grant Dixon, the owner of Club Evolution, at 130 N. Patterson Blvd. downtown. "We have been very patient as other businesses have. They are not taking any action to help the small businesses. We are turning to what you call self help. (You) have to help yourself because no one else is."

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As coronavirus cases rose, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Dr. Amy Acton, the state's health director, ordered all bars and restaurants to close March 15 for dine-in service.  Carryout and delivery services could continue.

Credit: Club Evolution/Grant Dixon

Credit: Club Evolution/Grant Dixon

Dixon, who opened the LGBTQ bar and nightclub on July 15, 2017, at the former site of Riff Raff Tavern on the Canal, plans to reopen it June 1.

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He has set up the Facebook event page “Reopening June 1st with or without government permission!”

The description reads in part, "If you own a hospitality related business we invite you to join us. We will be taking temperatures and requiring masks. We will be prepared to meet any government intervention with appropriate counter measures. Join us!"

Dan Suffoletto, a spokesman for Public Health-Dayton & Montgomery County, said that he can't predict what types of businesses will be allowed to open on or by June 1 or under what circumstances.

He said his agency is keeping up with the state’s ever-evolving guidelines.

“If a business is open when they are not supposed to be open, then they will be ordered closed,” he said.

A message was sent to the state health department’s spokeswoman seeking comment.

Dixon told this news organization that he is not militant, just pushed to the brink.

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“We are a very well-run business, but we cannot operate with no sales,” he added. “We are very law abiding.”

Dixon, also the owner of a local home care business, said he is in the process of renewing Club Evolution's state liquor licenses, but it will not be worth the $3,000 fee if he can't reopen.

“We are tired of waiting and we are going to reopen no matter what the consequences are,” he said.

Government loan programs have not been fair to small businesses, he said, adding that many won’t have the means to return if the order is not lifted.

"I can't believe more people aren't standing up and taking control," he said. "What are they going to do, close us all down on the same night and revoke all of our licenses?" 

Credit: Club Evolution/Grant Dixon

Credit: Club Evolution/Grant Dixon

Club Evolution struggled to establish itself in its first two years, but Dixon said it was finally seeing success.

The business employed seven people, plus contracted security guards before the shutdown was ordered.

Besides cleaning, none of those people has been able to work at Club Evolution since the order, Dixon said.

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Rent, utilities and other expenses for the bar cost $7,000 to $8,000 a month, he added.

“I am paying $8,000 to sit on my couch,” he said. “It took a lot to build that business and now it is going down the drain.”


Dixon said he briefly opened for carryout after DeWine’s April 7 announcement that restaurants that have a liquor license for on-premises consumption would be able to sell pre-packaged cocktails to go with a meal.

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He said he sold several pizzas and a few cocktails, but shut down after the county health department informed him that there was a complaint filed about the business.

At this point, Dixon said he feels like he has no other option.

“We have to do some kind of action,” he said. “If I do get shut down, hopefully I will have done something to help other businesses continue their journey.”

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