New restaurant owners lured by downtown Hamilton’s appeal, resilience

A new restaurant’s recent Hamilton debut is further evidence that downtown properties are rebounding quickly from unexpected vacancies.

Basil 1791 opened earlier this month at 241 High St. in downtown Hamilton in a space that formerly was home to Ryan’s Tavern, a business that helped kick off booming growth in Hamilton’s downtown a decade ago.

The new restaurant, whose “1791” moniker is a nod to the year Fort Hamilton was completed, is owned by Basil Asian Bistro, a collection of four other existing restaurants owned by the same group in northeastern Ohio.

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Tony Ly, the restaurant’s co-owner, said fellow co-owners Steve Coon and Dave Jursik first approached him with the idea of a new restaurant in downtown Hamilton five years ago.

“I said I was not interested (but) they kept bringing me back, and every time I came back, I was just more and more impressed with how quickly the city has started to really get on its feet and create that downtown urban environment,” Ly said.

Coon said when he first started renovating buildings in the city’s downtown in 2008 with his construction business, Coon Restoration, he saw vacant buildings on both sides of the road “from Elder-Beerman all the way to city hall”

Coon said Basil 1791 and other developments in the city’s downtown have transformed the area into something completely different from when he was the only one doing something in the city.

“In just a short 10-year period, look what’s happened,” he said. “Now it’s vibrant, and between the Mercantile Lofts and the JournalNews building and the Robinson-Schwenn and now the Fifth Third, we think it’s made quite an impact on the downtown and really helped bring the downtown back to life.”

City Manager Joshua Smith said Basil 1791 has been “an instant success.”

“Basil has a great reputation in northern Ohio, and from what I have heard, they did not disappoint their first week of being open in Hamilton,” Smith said. “People desire authentic experiences, and downtown Hamilton offers that in great part (because of) the ownership group of Basil.

“Steve Coon and Dave Jursik’s incredible work on so many of our historic buildings have helped create the necessary environment for their restaurant to be successful.”

Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Dan Bates said it is beneficial to Hamilton when developers who have relationships with the city become interested and involved with it.

“They bring with them other partnerships and open doors to relationships the city may not otherwise have had,” Bates said. “With the transition from Ryan’s Tavern into Basil, you’re talking about a developer who is investing heavily into Hamilton, and they do have those relationships with the other entities they’ve been involved with, like the Basil in Canton.”

Bates said Hamilton is a perfect environment for situations in which developers and other business people see an opportunity and get passionate about being involved.

Smith said Don Ryan, who closed the business that helped kick off booming growth in its downtown area, should be commended for making a “significant investment” in the property a decade ago when few others were willing to do so.

“This restaurant is a continuation of his vision a decade ago,” Smith said.

The fact that new tenants are rapidly filling recently vacated space in downtown Hamilton storefronts is evidence of the city’s resiliency, Bates said.

In December, sushi burrito concept Roll On In announced plans to fill by March the space vacated in September by J. Austin’s Riverbank Cafe at 102 Main St.

Alexander’s Market, which closed in early November, is set to reopen under new ownership this March.

Although Art Off Symmes’ owner closed the business at 228 High St. for personal reasons at the end of December, it and other vacated downtown spaces will not be empty for long, Smith said.

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