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Raze Larry's? They Wouldn't Dare

The Other Paper, August 17-23, 1995
By Jeff Long

     Of all the complaints and rumors floating around about Campus Partners, this is the one that's really got campus denizens up in arms:
     They're going to tear down Larry's.
     It sounds like fear-mongering born of too many Black Labels: Larry's, a watering hole of the campus counterculture for decades, a victim of Campus Partners; redevelopment plan?
     "It's the kind of place that creates the kind of felling among people--they'll go out and lay down in front of the bulldozers," said attorney Jim McNamara, a Larry's regular.
     "I guarantee you, there is no other aspect of the university plan that would guarantee as much opposition as the destruction of Larry's," said Edward Pfau, an attorney who used to live above Larry's. 
     Lawyers aren't the only ones who frequent Larry's, sucking down cheap beer and soaking up Larry's singular atmosphere. Larry's has always been the campus bar for people who hate campus bars.
     The Paoletti family--which still owns Larry's--opened the joint in 1934 as the Lawrence Grill at Woodruff Avenue and High Street. The decor hasn't changed much--a worn mahogany bar, linoleum floor, pool table in the corner, graffitoed booths along one wall. Nor has the clientele--poets, musicians, slumming Ohio State professors, street people, record store employees.
     The old myth about Larry's is that it's a "fag" bar, a tale perpetuated by Larry's regulars trying to keep out undesirable elements.
     Pfau, who represents the Paolettis, said the owner's son, Danny, called him earlier this summer after hearing a rumor that Lary's demolition wa part of Campus Partners' overhaul. Danny Paoletti saw a Campus Partners plan, Pfau said, that showed Woodruff Avenue--which now dead-ends at High before jogging to the east--plowing straight through Larry's and the adjacent BW-3 restuarant.

     Campus Partners is funded primarily by Ohio State--part of President E. Gordon Gee's plan to clean up the neighborhood around his university.
     Pfau said he contacted Steve Sterrett, Campus Partners' community relations director, and asked him about the plan. "he said, 'It's a long-term plan, nothing to worry about, Pfau said.
     Pfau started worrying. He's mobilized a force of Larry's regulars that will hold its first meeting later this month to stop this thing in its tracks.
     "If they tell me, 'It's long-term,' well, our organization is long-term," Pfau said. "We're going to continue to monitor this."
     Sterrett takes the blame for what he calls "misinformation" about Larry's demise. A transportation consultant hired by Campus Partners, he said, recommended straightening Woodruff Avenue to improve east-west access.
     The street would have gone through the Wendy's parking lot to the south, not the building housing Larry's, Sterrett said. "We don't have any plan to tear down Larry's. We do have an idea to straighten out Woodruff, but it's not a high priority."
     University Area Commission President Howard Skubovius is a harsh critic of Campus Partners, though he's a co-chair of its Community Advisory Council. 
     He says Campus Partners is serving the interests of Ohio State, not the neighborhood, and has failed to seek input from university area groups.
     If Larry's is safe from a Campus Partners wrecking ball, not every alcohol-soaked institution is so lucky.
     "The folks at Larry's have nothing to worry about," Sterrett said. "South (campus) is a different story.
     Among those on the south campus endangered list: Papa Joe's. One source said bar owners in the area have resisted attempts to buy them out. 
     As yet, a "Save Papa Joe's" committee has not been heard from.

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