Port Clinton bar The Gristmill increases seating and features live music

PORT CLINTON — There weren’t many new businesses open in the summer of 2020, with restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic deterring all but the most committed entrepreneurs.

Brooke Rodwancy has stayed true to her vision of running a new nightclub in Port Clinton, opening The Gristmill on Monroe Street just south of the Portage River drawbridge in August 2020.

Rodwancy, a Port Clinton native who co-owns The Gristmill with her parents, said her bar had limited space in its first year but has since expanded its seating considerably and overcame every challenge the pandemic has offered.

Brooke Rodwancy is co-owner of The Gristmill in downtown Port Clinton.  Rodwancy, originally from Port Clinton, opened the bar with his parents in August 2020.

As Memorial Day approaches, Rodwancy looks forward to the traditional summer crowds that fill The Gristmill and the rest of downtown Port Clinton.

“We think this is our first real full summer,” Rodwancy said on Saturday, as she spoke about The Gristmill’s additions and hopes for the upcoming summer tourist season.

The bar’s name is an ode to the building’s history

Rodwancy and his parents bought the Monroe Street property in February 2020 and spent six months renovating the site.

She said the property had been vacant for more than 15 years, but once housed a Mobil Oil service station and muffler repair shop.

A black and white photograph on one of the walls of The Gristmill shows an old working grain mill behind the petrol station, which led Rodwancy to choose the bar’s name.

“We wanted to restore some of the history that surrounded this area,” she said.

sydney "sydney" Jones is a bartender at Gristmill in downtown Port Clinton.  The bar, located at 4 Monroe St., opened in August 2020 and has expanded its seating capacity to 150 over the past year.

Craft cocktails are a specialty at Gristmill, with the bar also offering an extensive menu of craft and local beers.

The bar does not have an indoor kitchen, but Rodwancy said there is a food truck outside every day and customers can order food from Sloopy’s, Margot’s and other local establishments.

Don Rodwancy, Brooke’s father, said he drove past the property in January 2020 and thought it would be a good site for a new business.

He said his daughter boosted sales significantly as a bartender at the Port Clinton Yacht Club before opening The Gristmill.

“Her mother and I are very proud of what Brooke has done with her vision,” he said.

Gristmill now offers rooftop seating with live music

As part of the renovations, the Rodwancys completely redid the existing structure’s roof, exterior, and all but one interior wall remnant of the original building, which had sentimental value to the previous owner.

The Gristmill doubled in space in 2021 and now has 150 seats, including a rooftop space where customers can watch live music or sit outside and enjoy the weather.

Brooke Rodwancy said her father was in charge of the renovations, which saw the bar more than double its seats.

There has been an outdoor stage for performances since The Gristmill opened.

Jamey Hensley, Rodwancy’s fiancée, is The Gristmill’s marketing coordinator and entertainment program.

Local musician Mike Risner performed Saturday at the Gristmill in Port Clinton.  The bar offers live music from Thursday to Sunday on its outdoor stage.

Mike Risner took the stage at the Gristmill on Saturday for a solo acoustic performance, after rain fell intermittently for most of the early evening.

Risner performed on the bar’s outdoor stage.

Rodwancy said The Gristmill also has an indoor performance stage in case of bad weather.

In addition to Risner, Rodwancy said Dave Lester, Bar Code and Corduroy Road are among the bar’s regular performers.

The Gristmill, which opens at 11 a.m. seven days a week, offers live music Thursday through Sunday, with karaoke on Monday evenings.

It is about half a block southwest of the Jet Express Put-In-Bay terminal.

With no COVID restrictions this summer, Rodwancy said she expects to see a lot of new faces, as well as customers who aren’t as present due to the pandemic.

“We hope people are ready to have a fun and safe season and that’s what we’re here for,” Rodwancy said.

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Twitter: @DanielCarson7

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