The Venice Cafe on the corner of Erie and Franklin is one of the original and most iconic bars in the storied city of Kent. Since 1941, generations of residents, students and visitors have enjoyed the Venice Cafe for its authentic ambiance, great drinks, delicious food and more. Its noir-ish mahogany atmosphere and hued Italian murals have provided a unique backdrop for many a fun night out with friends and family.
The story of the Venice goes back at least eighty years where the roots of the Venice Cafe can be traced to at least two other Kent locations including a previous location in the 1930s at 211 Franklin Street–the current sight of Mugs. Old advertisements from that era boast of “steaks as big as your arm” with a restaurant upstairs and a cafe downstairs.
In 1941 John Sidoti incorporated the business with several members of his family and on Wednesday, October 15 of that year the Venice Cafe opened at its current location on the corner of Erie and Franklin to much fanfare with an enormous advertisement in the Courier-Tribune (predecessor to the Record-Courier) boasting of dancing, drinking and favors for everybody. Ads from the era show weekly live music with some of the earliest entertainment coming from Fred Harris and His Buckeye Roamers as well as Tony Russ and The Ramblers.
Over the ensuing years the Ricciardi family made the Venice the iconic name in downtown Kent nightlife that it remains today. For plenty of generations of Kent State students, getting your ID checked by “Mama Venice” on your 21st birthday was a right of passage to adulthood.
In 2013 the Venice revealed a redesigned logo and updated facilities that have been added to give patrons all the modern conveniences one would expect from a great tavern with the original classic bar, low lights, billiards tables, murals of Venice Italy and cozy wood seating just as they’ve always remembered. More additions include an artisan cocktail menu, Kent’s first nanobrewery, a stage for live music along with a full menu from Taco Tonto’s and much more