A local family plans to open Little River Bar & Grill. Tonya and Dale Lusby, and Crystal Stewart hope to be open in December.

Historic Warren County restaurant to open under new ownership

The Little River Bar & Grill is the name of the latest business to be operated at 5527 Oregonia Road, in Oregonia, an unincorporated town in Washington Twp., Warren County.

Tonya and Dale Lusby were there when the Little River Cafe closed most recently on Dec. 23.

With relatives Crystal Stewart and Annette Parnell, they began to discuss reopening the place themselves.

“We’ve always talked about it,” Stewart said last week. “We put all of our money together. We did it.”

On and off for more than two decades, the spot, a stone’s throw from the road, river and recreational trail, has been popular.

“We’re going to to try to cater to the river people. The bike people and motorcycles,” Tonya Lusby said.

Bar food, steaks, vegan and home-cooked meals are to be one the menu served. Trivia nights and Saturday night live music are to return.

“This something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Stewart, who operated Crystal’s Concessions food truck.

Dale Lusby is expected to concentrate on reopening a general store catering to fishermen and hunters. The store was operated for decades by the Sherwood family during Oregonia’s heyday.

Settled around a mill, it was known as Gaunt’s Mill and Brown’s Mill then Freeport until 1845, when it became Oregon and then Oregonia, according to a 2003 story in the Dayton Daily News.

Parts of the building date back to the 1860’s, when it was constructed as a private home.

If all goes well, the new owners plan to open for business in December.

“It just basically needs a good cleaning,” Tonya Lusby said.

The partners are working toward opening and waiting for approval of a liquor license.

Doc’s Place in Lebanon continues to operate. The previous owners of both businesses closed Little River Cafe in December “after a big going-away party,” general manager Mike Jacobs said in January.

The building also served as a train stop and post office for Oregonia, founded in 1802.

It was known as the Freeport Inn before Little River Cafe.

In 1995, chef Greg Aldredge and his wife, Pam Dunham, reopened the restaurant with Tim Bagford, an antique dealer, and David Landon, a Dayton lawyer.

The building, acquired by Mark Burris in 2001, was badly damaged by a fire in 2009.

Jacobs was part of a group that reopened the Little River Cafe in 2015.

While wanting to offer something different in their new business, the owners also decided to keep the history alive in the name.

“We wanted to keep Little River. That’s what everyone knows and loves,” Tonya Lusby said.

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