McCrabb: Hamilton bar owner weighs ‘headache’ of growing Queen of Hearts jackpot

As soon as Diane Gehrlich answered the question, she realized she sounded like she wasn’t playing with a full deck.

“I don’t need more people in here,” the Hamilton business owner said. “I hate saying that but it’s true.”

Her words made no sense, especially during these times when bars/restaurants are being negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

But in recent weeks, because of the ever-growing size of a raffle cash game called Queen of Hearts, Gehrlich’s Avenue Tavern and Grille has been overwhelmed by the number of customers.

For the last 45 weeks, at 7 p.m. every Tuesday, a raffle ticket has been drawn and the winner has not selected the Queen of Hearts from the 54 cards — 52 cards and two Jokers — numbered on the wall.

When someone picks the Queen, they receive 90% of the jackpot if they’re present at the drawing, and the other 10 percent starts the next game. State law prohibits businesses from keeping any of the money.

If the winner isn’t present, they get 50% and the rest rolls into the next week. The winner will fill out an Ohio tax form.

Gehrlich didn’t want to disclose the jackpot size because that would only attract more people, but it’s large enough that some are speculating it’s well into the six figures.

Of the 54 cards, there are nine cards left so there will be a winner soon. The raffle tickets are $1 or six for $5. After the drawing, that week’s tickets are thrown away and new tickets are sold.

Because of the size of the crowds that have gathered inside the bar, on the patio and in the parking lot, some local businesses and nearby residents have complained to Hamilton police and fire departments, she said.

She has asked on the bar’s Facebook page for customers to be considerate by picking up trash and not parking in nearby businesses that are open on Tuesday nights.

One local business started charging $3 to park every Tuesday, she said.

“Pure chaos,” Gehrlich said when asked to describe the scene. “It’s really not worth the headache.”

The Hamilton fire department informed Gehrlich that she can’t have more than 99 people inside her bar, though more are allowed on the patio, she said.

Last Tuesday, she said, the bar was at capacity by noon, one hour after it opened and seven hours before the Queen of Hearts drawing

On Thursday afternoon, Gehrlich was asked how many customers where in the bar.

“Let me go out there and check,” she said from her office. “One, two, three, four, five....Twenty-one.”

Gehrlich and her husband, Jim, bought Shenanigans 10 years ago, remodeled it and changed the name to Avenue Tavern and Grille.

She said the raffle has attracted new customers as far away as Tennessee. But she worries those customers may not return once the raffle is won. The bar has a small kitchen and isn’t equipped to handle large number of orders at the same time.

She said some customers have waited two hours for their food.

“We have made good money, but you have to take into consideration the headaches it has caused,” she said.


  • The Queen of Hearts has 54 sealed numbered cards. Under the sealed cards resides a randomly placed deck of poker cards with two Jokers. A tumbler is used for mixing raffle tickets that are typically sold for $1.
  • Drawing date will be set on a designated day, time and location.
  • The purchaser holding the winning ticket will pick a card from the board.
  • To win the jackpot, you must pick the Queen of Hearts from the Raffle board.
  • If the Queen of Hearts is not drawn, the pot rolls over to the next week.
  • The pot will continue to build until the Queen of Hearts is drawn; this could take up to 54 weeks.
  • If you are not going to be present at the drawing, you must declare a numbered card from the board and write the number on your raffle ticket stub Winners will typically receive 50% of the jackpot.
  • If the winning ticket holder picks the Queen of Hearts, they will receive a major percentage of the pot.
  • Tickets are available during the week at the club and up until the time of drawing.


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