As centers for politics and business, taverns are deeply rooted in Knox County. Today, bartenders still know everybody and pour drinks before asking for orders. Friends cluster around bar stools and pool tables to exchange raucous stories and playfully tease one another over cold ones. Providing a respite from daily tedium, bars attract workers finishing their shifts as the sun rises, families enjoying lunch, and a core of devoted regulars throughout the day. The occasional stranger can always find space at the bar, and a microphone on karaoke night. Though a bar’s name may change, a single building often houses an establishment for decades. Patrons remain loyal to their neighborhood tavern: “It’s kind of like home after being here thirty years. Little bit away, you start missing it and you want to come back.”

“I really enjoy getting to know some of the older people that come in here. Usually they’ve lost their wife or husband, and they’re just kind of rolling around on their own. And for me to be able to conversate with them, help them out with little things that they don’t have someone to do, it’s really gratifying to me.” Chad Long, owner, Honey Buckets

“Used to be there was a lot of business down in the bars. When I was drilling oil wells, you shook hands in the bar; you drill an eighty or hundred thousand dollar well. No problems. That’s where everybody met.” Former bar owner

“People know when they come in they’re going to generally see friends, their friends. Larry [co-owner] knows just about everybody around here. I know about half. It’s definitely a gathering place.” Lee “Buzz” Ickes, co-owner, Howard Hilton

Patrons find space for moments of concentration between karaoke sets and catching up with friends. Courtesy Matt Witmer 
In order to remain neighborhood places, some bars limit their advertising to word of mouth and Facebook. Courtesy Matt Witmer 
“I’ve traveled all across America, and at the little dive bars, I’ve found that there are more people like me.” Nicholas A. Batenburg, patron, Howard Hilton. Courtesy Matt Witmer

Benjamin Butler, the first tavern owner in Mount Vernon, used his tavern on the corner of Main and Gambier Streets in a ploy to establish Mount Vernon as the county seat. A. Banning Norton, A History of Knox County, Ohio, from 1779 to 1862
The Clinton Tavern was one of the first brick structures in Knox County. Courtesy Mount Vernon Public Library 
Local musicians depend on bars as venues to reach audiences.