Sammy’s, Tap House get fresh start with new owners

New owners are injecting new life into two well-known area nightspots: Sammy’s in Austintown and the former Chestnut Street Cafe in Sharon, Pa.

John Crea of Youngstown and Erik Thorson of Boardman are taking over Sammy’s from Sammy Cera, who has owned the bar, which sits in a plaza at the intersection of New and Raccoon roads, since 1989.

Crea actually was a bartender there in the late ’90s, when the club was known as Sammy Maxx, and has worked in the nightclub industry in the Cleveland area for the past 14 years. He’ll be the on-site manager, while Thorson will handle the administrative end.

The ownership change takes effect this weekend, with a grand opening the following weekend. Crea isn’t sure if they’ll change the name or not; he’s leaving that up to bar patrons with an email “name the bar” contest next month.

A full-scale blowout is planned for July 31, with representation from the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and Phantoms, as well as roller-derby girls, fireworks, lots of live music and a hot-dog-eating contest.

Sammy’s has a full-service kitchen, which will create specials to complement standing weekday events such as Country Music Night (Tuesdays); morra night (Wednesdays); and Meat Market Night (Saturdays, with steaks and burgers). Thursdays will be ladies night with crab legs and a DJ.

Live rock bands will be booked Fridays and Saturdays.

Over in Sharon, The Tap House will open this weekend with a grand opening the next weekend. The nightclub is in the building that once housed the Chestnut Street Cafe, down the block from Quaker Steak and Lube.

The multilevel building has been renovated and now is owned by Jeff Chaser.

Rising rock band Airiel Down out of North Carolina will baptize the place July 9 in a show promoted by, an Internet radio station owned by Don Christoff of Sharon that provides music to work out by.

Airiel Down is on tour, hitting a lot of U.S. military bases overseas. In fact the band’s video for its song “Black Flag” was shot aboard an aircraft carrier.

Last year, KISS had a contest for local bands to serve as opening act in each city on its tour. Airiel Down won the honor for the Charlotte, N.C., concert.

Admission for the July 9 show at The Tap House will be $5, which includes a drink ticket.

Drag queen STRUTS STUFF on ‘America’s Got Talent’

Did you see drag queen Hershae Chocolate (pronounced Her-SHAY Choc-o-LOTT) on NBC competition show “America’s Got Talent” last week?

That was actually Hershaun Gardner, 31, a Youngstown native and a Chaney High School graduate. He (yes, he) has been living in Toledo for the past 10 years.

Anyway, Hershae appeared on the audition round (filmed in Atlanta) last Wednesday. He came out wearing a huge afro wig and did a brief impersonation of Macy Gray’s “I Try,” nailing the raspy voice. Then he stripped down and did a very acrobatic take on Donna Summer’s “The Last Dance” — which included cartwheels and splits — that left the studio audience standing and cheering. You can find it on YouTube.

Judges Howie Mandel and Sharon Osbourne loved him and sent him on to the Las Vegas round, where he got eliminated. Piers Morgan, the third judge, cast a dissenting vote.

“I must be missing something here,” said an obviously unimpressed Morgan. “Yes you are — a bloody sense of humor,” replied Osbourne. Gardner is the son of Sheila Braxton of Youngstown.


Work is under way on the facade of the Downtown Youngstown building that will house the Mahoning Valley History Center. And this week, planning work began on the exhibits that will be set up inside the new museum.

Exhibit Concepts of Dayton, a firm that designs exhibits for museums, stores and trade shows, arrived in Youngstown on Tuesday. Employees of the firm are studying the archives of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society, which hired the company. The History Center is slated to open in the fall of 2012 in the Burt Building on West Federal Street.

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