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    Lawrence J. Paoletti 

    opened the Lawrence Grill

    in the early 1920's 

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unning a successful restaurant came naturally to the Paoletti brothers.  Early in the 1900's the siblings opened Paoletti's, the first in a line of successful eateries, on Third and Gay next to where the Dispatch building still stands today. 

Sam continued to run the place after brother Lawrence and his new bride Mary opened the Lawrence Grill on the east side of High Street around 5th Avenue. Mary had roots in the restaurant business too. Her sister, Theresa Piacentini, married into the Marzetti family who owned a very popular fine dinning establishment at 16 East Broad, and later made a fortune on their famous salad dressing.

While turning a good profit, the 5th and high location proved to be less than ideal.  Around 1923, Lawrence and Mary moved their restaurant  to Larry's current location at 2040 North High.  Lawrence Grill continued its "old world" traditional setting: tablecloths, latticework partitions, and fine Italian food. Prohibition (enforced between 1920 and 1933) prevented 



The Paolettis (L -R): Lawrence, Robert, 
Mary, and Larry   
alcohol sales at this time, but the business  thrived with the growth of The Ohio State University across the street. Though rumored to have been a speakeasy during this period, actually, the Paolettis were plenty busy just selling food.

As America entered its Great Depression, few businesses were as prosperous as the Paoletti's.  Their landlord owed the bank money and the bank owed the Paolettis money.  Consequently, the bank turned the building at 2040 North High over to the family.

With the end of Prohibition  in 1933, Lawrence Grill was in for another boon.  Campus remained dry from 10th Avenue to just one foot south of the restaurant's property. It was now the closest spot from campus to get 



        North High Street as viewed from Lawrence Grill
alcohol. OSU students and faculty would now come for beer and wine, as well as food. This business remained steady until the early 40's when the Second World War brought a near standstill to life around the OSU campus, as young men and women dedicated themselves to the cause. Lawrence and Mary's son Larry was now a young man. He began working at the grill while attending OSU as an engineering student.  After finishing college in 1942 and working briefly for General Electric, he too would join the war effort - stationed on a Navy ship in the South Atlantic. 

After several very slow years, a surprising turn of events would attract a new type of customer and alter the establishment's focus.  Around 1943, a professor at Ohio State developed an aircraft identification course that Navy personnel were required to take. These soldiers were given free room and board at Ohio State, but would go to Lawrence's after class for drinks. Suddenly, many young men wanted to keep late hours at the Grill drinking. Mary Paoletti spoke often of the day the tablecloths were symbolically removed. And the lattice partitions were soon to follow! After the war, OSU enrollment skyrocketed and business hopped with the return of many students on the G.I. Bill.  Larry also returned.  He now ran the place full-time and the name was officially changed to Larry's.

Larry was a bright young man, well versed in many subjects. He would often engage university scholars in  discussions on politics, art , and science.  A ragtime piano player himself, Larry was a huge fan of jazz, classical music, and opera.  He studied musicology in Chicago for a while, and brought back a bohemian vibe to the bar,  which now featured live music by ragtime pianist Terry Waldo and others.

On her way to a sorority party, a young woman stopped by the bar. Betty Scott met Larry and they married in 1950.  Larry got a job doing aerodynamics research for Airesearch Corporation and the newlyweds moved to California. Lawrence, once again, ran the place. Much older now and tired of the business, he did so reluctantly, and finally convinced Larry to come back. Soon the young Paolettis had three infant boys to tend to - back in Columbus, Oh.



Larry Paoletti as a young man

Larry's continued to thrive through the 60's and 70's.  Before the proliferation of south campus bars on the OSU campus, crowds lined High Street on Friday nights waiting to get in. During the Vietnam war demonstrations of the early 70's, Larry's was THE gathering place for rioters and protestors.  Regular customers initiated the annual spring "Prom" to celebrate the reclaiming of the bar, after students left for summer break.  Also during this period, a rumor was intentionally spread, that Larry's was a "gay bar", to deter college fraternity types from coming in.

In 1984 Cheryl Abdullah and John Cropp began organizing weekly poetry readings on Monday nights. Surprisingly, the event was a huge success, and brought customers in on an, otherwise, off night.  Steve Abbott took over as coordinator the following year, and Larry's Poetry Forum continues to host world class poets and open readings Monday nights during the school year (autumn through spring). 

Over the years many myths and legends have generated from Larry's. Certainly many stories can be told.  Was there a bowling alley in the basement?  Yes, there were duckpin lanes in the basement, underneath the gravel lot behind the building, but they were never owned or operated  by the Paolettis and were probably not in use



Larry circa 1990
when they took over the building. Did Bob Dylan stay in an apartment upstairs during the early 60's?  Seems likely.  Do ghosts haunt the place?  If you've every been  in the place alone, late at night - you'd probably say yes! 

But one thing is for sure, the presence of several generations of kindred spirits can be felt at any time. And many future memories are in the making.

 

History by  Bill Hustad 
from interview with Betty Paoletti, 27 August 2000

 

 

 

 

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arry passed on January 13, 1999 and many friends gathered at the bar to pay their respects and reminisce. The poetry forum  microphone was set up and Eulogies and stories flowed. In attendance were former patrons and employees spanning almost 40 years.  Though a sad occasion, it was also a celebration of the community we all share. Larry would have liked that. 

During the mid 90's, Larry's sons Dan and Jon ran the bar.  Around 1998, Jon's wife Linda became   


Linda and Jon Paoletti, current owners of Larry's Bar  
an important part of the team, and she and Jon soon became the owners. Jon, like his father, is a musician and music fan. He moonlights playing bass for Mike Patrick and the Blues Drivers.

Larry passed on January 13, 1999 During the mid 90's, Larry's sons became an important part 

 

 

 

 

 

Last updated Dec. 15, 2004
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