With new restaurant, Hamilton continues adding life to Main Street buildings

An Agave and Rye restaurant will replace the former Ritzi Body Shop on Main Street in Hamilton

Agave & Rye, a rapidly expanding regional chain that describes itself as “a modern Tequila and Bourbon Hall,” plans to move into the former Ritzi Body Shop location on Hamilton’s Main Street.

Hamilton’s Community Improvement Corporation members voted Thursday to sell the building to the restaurant for $1 in exchange for a $2.5 million investment on the property at the southeast corner of Main and E streets.

“Their investment was 2½ times higher than the next closest proposal,” said Hamilton Small-Business Development Specialist Mallory Greenham. “They’re expected to add 50-60 jobs to Hamilton.”

The city bought the 0.62-acre property last summer for $365,000. Ritzi was a multi-generation automobile repair and body shop that operated for 83 years.

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Agave & Rye hopes to be open by April 1, 2022, Greenham said.

Other businesses who submitted proposals were Richards Mexican Cafe, owned by Richards Pizza; Rose of Sharon Beauty Empire; Main StrEAT Food Park, which would sell Ramen, popsicles and Philippine foods; and Unsung Salvage.

One company that made a public push for a location was Richards Pizza, which sold Mexican food and other international foods from its Main Street location until 1992, when demand for the Italian food took up too much of the kitchen’s attention.

Richards in February posed the question online, “What would you think if we brought back the original Richards Mexican menu items in a separate restaurant on Main Street?”

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“All of them were great,” Greenham said of the proposals. “Honestly, all of them had awesome proposals.”

Each Agave & Rye is in essence a tequila bar and a bourbon bar inside a Mexican-inspired restaurant. The restaurants feature a selection of 87 tequilas and 87 bourbons.

The Hamilton location will be able to seat more than 100 indoors and 200-plus outdoors.

The bar at taco, tequila and bourbon hall Agave & Rye at Liberty Centerin Liberty Twp. and other Butler County businesses are bracing for the effects of a new state rule that mandates moving last call for drinks to 10 p.m. at Ohio bars and restaurants. ERIC SCHWARTZBERG/STAFF
The bar at taco, tequila and bourbon hall Agave & Rye at Liberty Centerin Liberty Twp. and other Butler County businesses are bracing for the effects of a new state rule that mandates moving last call for drinks to 10 p.m. at Ohio bars and restaurants. ERIC SCHWARTZBERG/STAFF

Credit: Eric Schwartzberg

Credit: Eric Schwartzberg

For the establishments that weren’t chosen on Thursday, as well as other companies that may be interested, Hamilton officials today planned to request proposals for two other properties in the city:

  • A brick building at 514 Maple Ave. downtown that used to house a city electric substation. The building is about a block southeast of the McDonald’s restaurant at High Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard.
  • The combination of 244 Main St. and 16 North D St., which will be marketed as a pair. Officials have worked unsuccessfully in recent years to market the two buildings, which they feel each are too small to develop individually, but perhaps can be used together, perhaps with an atrium connecting them.

Agave & Rye has nine locations and three in Ohio, including one that opened at Liberty Center in 2019. It specializes in tacos with a creative twist with the wide variety of tequila and bourbon.

After a closed-door session where the various companies were discussed, CIC board members who were present at Thursday’s meeting voted yes, except for board member Jason Crank, a partner at United Heartland Insurance Agencies.

“I’m going to oppose, because that was not my first choice,” Crank said.

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Agave & Rye has opened a location at Liberty Center in Liberty Township. The restaurant features a variety of tacos and large selection of tequilas and bourbons. This is their first location in Ohio. They have locations in Covington and Lexington in Kentucky. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Agave & Rye has opened a location at Liberty Center in Liberty Township. The restaurant features a variety of tacos and large selection of tequilas and bourbons. This is their first location in Ohio. They have locations in Covington and Lexington in Kentucky. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Agave & Rye, founded in 2018, is owned by independent restaurateurs Yavonne and Wade Sarber and is based in Covington, Ky.

“Each restaurant has an aesthetic that is unique to its location, bringing its own feel from the surrounding community to blend both Agave & Rye and the city together into one epic experience,” the company said in a news release.

The company added that it tries to walk a fine line between fine art and street art that gives its locations an “urban grunge” feel, with eclectic music playing.

“This location in Hamilton will evoke a style that blends soothing and contemporary décor, as well as design features that call to mind the city’s culture,” the company said.

Various new and unique restaurants, bars and shops have popped up or are preparing to open on Main Street in recent years. Among them have been the Village Parlor ice cream shop; the soon-to-open Billy Yanks bar; and the proposed HUB on Main, for which HUB stands for Hamilton’s Urban Backyard.

Staff Writer Eric Schwartzberg contributed to this report.