(keep reading to learn what happened)
Season: 4 | View All Season 4 Episodes
Original Episode Air Date: October 18, 2015
The Bar's Original Name Was: The Royal Oaks
The Royal Oaks Address: 924 Oak St Youngstown, OH 44506
The Royal Oaks was a Youngstown, Ohio bar that was featured on Season 4 of Bar Rescue.
Though the Royal Oaks Bar Rescue episode aired in October 2015, the actual filming and visit from Jon Taffer took place before that.
It was Season 4 Episode 34 and the episode name was “Blowing Royal Smoke”.
Royal Oaks is a bar located in Youngstown, Ohio.
If you’re not familiar with Youngstown, it’s a city of around 60,000 people located in the eastern part of the state right near the Pennsylvania border.
For some more context, it’s about halfway between Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
The bar opened in 1934 and was the first bar to be granted a liquor license following the prohibition, which is a pretty cool backstory in my opinion.
John and Louie Kennedy are the owners (no relation to the former President and his bootlegger family).
They bought the bar in 2000 and have been successful with locals and repeat customers.
However, because of the recession, the area started to become desolate, and Royal Oaks began losing money.
John Kennedy has children and is in danger of losing a lot if Royal Oaks closes, so they really need the Royal Oaks Bar Rescue visit to be a success.
Beyond the economic troubles, the brothers drive patrons away because they are annoying.
Jon and the mayor of the town, also named John (but spelled differently), arrive and think the bar’s exterior looks unsafe and dangerous.
They watch the hidden camera footage and see Louie cursing while customers are in the bar.
A group of local women goes into the bar as spies: Emily and Arliya and the bartenders.
The decor is weird with adult sex toys on the walls. That’s not exactly the vibe of a place I’d enjoy hanging out in.
The bar advertises icy beer, but the girls are given warm beer.
Billy, the cook, serves food that he has taken out of the owner’s car.
The owner makes the food at home in his smoker and brings it to the bar, which is a huge issue with health codes.
Just think of all the potential hygiene issues with that…
The customers appear to not mind the precooked food.
The owners begin roasting each other, showing tension.
The spies leave, and Louie drops his jeans and flashes everyone in the bar his privates. Ummm…WTF?
Jon has seen enough and comes into the bar. I’ve seen enough, too!.
Jon comes in and yells at the owners. They are not taking him seriously and are laughing at him because they have been drinking.
Gerry Graham, an expert in whisky, and Kevin Bludso, an expert chef, come in to back Jon Taffer up.
John, the owner, is upset about the way he acted the day before.
Louie has no idea what is happening in the bar, and John also believes he is not pulling his weight.
The staff told John that the customers had offered to remodel the bar, but Louie told them not to.
Many of the employees are emotional because they have been at the bar for a long time.
Louie defends the creepy décor when Jon questions it.
The staff begins training with Gerry on improving their bartending skills.
They tell him they throw out 50% of the beer foam and spend a lot of money on ice monthly.
To improve things, they are taught how to make a cocktail with mead which will tie into the theme of the bar.
Meanwhile in the kitchen, Kevin teaches the owners how to properly marinate and cook chicken.
They learn how to do this in the kitchen – not in their car!
During the stress test, Louie doesn’t do anything. Jon has to make him go and take orders.
The customers do like the food, but Louie isn’t stepping up.
He only wants the guests to order beer or shots because cocktails are too complicated.
Since there isn’t a smoker in the kitchen to cook BBQ, they are gifted a new smoker.
John and Louie also come to an agreement and begin to work together.
Jon Taffer reveals all of the bar’s renovations.
He got rid of the weird décor and remodeled the bar, but he kept the original Royal Oaks name because of its rich history.
They now have the best beer cooling system in the city, which is a big upgrade from where they were before.
The relaunch is a huge success, with customers loving the food, drinks, and décor.
The Royal Oaks Update - What Happened Next?
Now that we’ve recapped the Royal Oaks Bar Rescue visit, let’s talk about what happened after Jon Taffer and his crew left Youngstown, OH.
At first, the owners debated bringing back the weird décor that you saw in the episode. However, they eventually decided to trust Jon’s choices and keep his decorations.
That was probably a good idea given the bar’s current situation…
Is Royal Oaks from Bar Rescue still open?
As of 2022, Royal Oaks is still open and serving customers in Youngstown, OH.
It’s survived for over seven years from Taffer’s visit, with no signs of slowing down.
The bar did struggle during the Covid-19 pandemic, though. However, The Royal Oaks was able to survive because John and Louie both still have day jobs. That is, the bar isn’t their only income.
You can read an interview about it with John in this local news article, which includes the following quote:
After Bar Rescue, we were a destination…
The Royal Oaks also wanted to expand the bar with an outdoor patio in 2017.
However, the patio would’ve blocked the street, so some people disagreed with that.
The local news covered it in this video, which includes some shots of The Royal Oaks after Bar Rescue, along with an interview with John Kennedy:
The bar is quite active on Facebook, regularly posting about events and specials.
They have pretty standard specials – e.g. wings, ribs, and so on.
In terms of events, they obviously show plenty of sports.
They also have some unique events such as a Baggo tournament.
Here’s what the Royal Oaks Youngstown Ohio location looks like in the most recent Google Maps street view update:
What’s more, the reviews for the restaurant are quite good. It has a four star rating on both Yelp and TripAdvisor.
That’s one of the higher ratings that you’ll see for a bar from the show, as even many other Bar Rescue bars that stayed open are still in more like the 3.5 star range.
Here’s a sampling of reviews that were written after after the visit from Jon Taffer…
5 star Yelp review from January 2017:
We wanted to try their famous Raspberry BBQ smoked chicken wings.
They were delicious!
The ambience was exactly what I expected… don’t judge a book by its cover!
The bartender was friendly. All original inside.
Was also featured on Bar Rescue!
5 star Yelp review from May 2016:
I was afraid that the recent Bar Rescue would ruin the atmosphere – but thankfully that has not been the case.
The Raspberry sauced ribs are still excellent, as are the wings.
I’ve taken many clients and friends to Royal Oaks over the years and they have always come out satisfied and happy.
It’s not in the best of neighborhoods, but outside of downtown and near YSU, there isn’t a complete neighborhood of Youngstown. Get used to it!
4 star Yelp review from November 2017:
Some of the best bbq in town. The hot raspberry bbq is a famous town favorite but watch out it’s HOT!
Portion sizes are big and prices are small. The wings and ribs are smoked and delicious.
Rib dinners come with multiple sides. The fries are fair style and really tasty.
The atmosphere is cleaner since they were on bar rescue.
It’s a hole in the wall kind of bar that you’ll never regret visiting and can’t wait to go back to.
Drink prices are super cheap.
4 star Yelp review from November 2015:
When I heard earlier this week Royal Oaks had been through the Bar Rescue treatment, my first reaction was I wonder what this absolute dive is now?
Knowing where the Oaks was located, I bullet proofed my windows and armored the car for a trip over.
The food was excellent, smoked ribs, not a huge fan of the sauce but unique.
The wings were excellent and the beer was cold but limited in selection on draft.
The prices, unlike some other BBQ places around here were reasonable.
Overall, five star food and prices, but if you think you hear a car backfire while eating dinner, it was not a car.
Four stars because it is not like I am going there for a late meal.
Overall, this one seems like a real Bar Rescue success story, with happy customers and 7+ years of success since Taffer’s visit.
Congratulations to John and Louie Kennedy and good job from Jon Taffer on this one!
If you want to see some other Ohio Bar Rescue episodes, you can check out my updates for The Federal / Martini Brothers in Youngstown, America Live / Win Place or Show in Fairfield, The Public House / The Black Sheep in Cheviot, and Ripper’s Rock House / Tim Owen’s in Akron.
Thanks for reading!
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Last updated: 2022-12-09 07:04