The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

May 31, 2013

Jewels Dance Hall comes back to life

AUSTINBURG TOWNSHIP — When Jewels Dance Hall closed its door nearly a year ago, it wasn’t just a disappointment to the patrons, but for Roy and Glada Kelly as well.

The couple owned the popular country watering hole for a decade, before handing over the keys in 2006, but they called Jewels home long before that.

Roy Kelly’s band started playing at Jewels in 1979, back when there was just a small stage at the other end of the room. His band played there for 18 years, so when the owner was ready to sell, the Kellys were ready to make Jewels their own.

After 10 years of local music, large crowds and late nights, the Kellys thought they were ready to call it quits and enjoy the quiet life of retirement. They soon realized, retirement wasn’t for them. Although they never set foot in Jewels once they sold it, the bar was always a part of them.

“We would drive by and look at it and saw it falling apart,” Roy Kelly said. “We knew it was only a matter of time before it would be torn down.”

The bar had gone into foreclosure so there was quite a bit of red tape the Kellys had to go through to buy it back, but they were determined to bring Jewels to life again.

“Retirement wasn’t for us,” he said. “We’ve been working 12 to 14 hour days for the past two or three months and I feel better than I have in years.”

The Kellys had their work cut out for them before they could open the doors again. The plumbing had to be brought up to code, the bathrooms needed remodeling and the kitchen had to be replaced as well.

“We haven’t changed a whole lot, just renewed a lot of stuff,” Kelly said.

Patrons will see a lot of the old familiarities like the murals on the walls, and the mirrors behind the bar.

“(The previous owners) had taken all the mirrors down,” Kelly said. “Girls like the mirrors.”

The murals were painted back when the Kellys previously owned the bar. A local artist, who lives in Colorado now, came home to visit his mother. He was a little short on cash so the Kellys let him tend bar a few times.

“Then Glada found out he painted murals in Colorado so she asked him to paint the murals on the walls,” he said.

One of the things that put Jewels on the map is the number of national acts that have played there over the years. The Kellys have always had ties to the country music industry as their son, Joe, lives in Nashville, Tenn. and works in the industry.

Jewels has played host to country greats such as Mark Wills, Noel Haggard, Leroy Parnel, Daryl Singletary, Confederate Railroad, David Allen Coe and the Kentucky Headhunters, among others. One of the most remembered performances at Jewels, was that of country superstar Toby Keith.

“We didn’t book Toby to play here, but he’s always been a real good friend of ours,” Kelly said. “Whenever he is traveling up or down Route 90, he stops in.”

As have a lot of other bands, including Blake Shelton and Joe Nichols. Kelly said Nichols has already been invited to visit the bar following his performance at the Ashtabula County Fair in August.

“Some of them have played here multiple times,” he said. “Daryl Singletary opened us up in 1996 and closed us out in 2000. He was our first concert and our last concert.”

Now the wait is finally over and the Jewels’ dance floor will once again come to life tonight. The Kellys will open the doors at 4 p.m. and anticipate a large crowd for the weekend.

“It’s going to be overwhelming,” Kelly said. “There’s going to be a lot of people disappointed because they can’t get in.”

Kelly said he wishes he could let everyone in, but he has to comply with the fire code.

Patrons may see a few familiar faces behind the bar too, as several of the Kellys’ former bartenders are returning.

“We are blessed to be getting some of our former bartenders back,” he said.

Country Redford will take the stage at 9 p.m. The band hails from Northeast Ohio and has quickly developed a following from around the area. The lead singers are a brother/sister duo from Roaming Shores.

Wild Ride, who is no stranger to the stage at Jewels, is scheduled to perform Saturday at 9 p.m.

Beginning next week, Jewels will be open Wednesday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Wednesday will feature line dance lessons with instructor Dee Blansett, Thursdays will feature karaoke and Fridays and Saturdays will feature live bands on the stage.

“We are glad to be back,” Kelly said. “This is a great place. The people love it and we love it too.”

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