New Owner Hopes to Revive So So’s on North Side

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The owner of Ray’s Fish Market on Belmont Avenue in Liberty Township plans to reopen the former So So’s Club just north of the downtown.

Ray Rue, accompanied by his architect for the project and his attorney, appeared before the city Design Review Committee Tuesday morning. The committee approved the proposal by Doug Sipp of Sipp + Tepe Architects, North Lima, for improvements to the façade of the building, 232 North Ave.

The building has been vacant for a couple of months, said Matthew L. DeVicchio, an attorney representing Rue and So So’s.

“So So’s has been around for a lot of years. It was a family-owned bar for many years,” DeVicchio told the committee. The owner’s daughter tried to run the bar following his death, juggling those responsibilities with her other job, and other owners attempted to operate it as well.

Rue, an employee of So So’s five years, said he worked there as a disc jockey and a manager. He has operated Ray’s Fish Market the past 2½ years in a building once used by Taco Bell but vacant several years.

“Ray exceeded [the building owner’s] expectations in fixing that building up,” DeVicchio said. “So this is not his first venture. He has experience in it.” Rue worked at So So’s during what the attorney called its “heyday” as a neighborhood hangout for an older clientele. “Basically he had a vision to restore that back to the neighborhood,” he said.

Rue, who plans to reopen the establishment as So So’s Lounge, says he is targeting the bar to the 35-and-older crowd, and wants to feature jazz and blues. “No hip-hop,” he said.

The façade improvements are expected to cost $18,000, DeVicchio said. Overall Rue expects to spend $100,000.

The committee’s approval was essential for the project to move forward. Rue purchased a liquor license for the establishment but because no city licenses were available he had to purchase one under Mahoning County’s jurisdiction

To transfer the license to the city, there must be a demonstrated economic benefit to it, said Bill D’Avignon, Youngstown community development director. Rue has been working with the Youngstown director of community planning and economic development, T. Sharon Woodberry.

Youngstown has “conditionally endorsed” the license transfer subject to Rue making the improvements to the property, DeVicchio said. Rue looks to open as early December, he said, before the holiday season.

A contractor is on site doing “light demolition work” and permit submissions to the county have been made, said Doug Sipp, principal of Sipp + Tepe Architects.

Pictured: Ray Rue, who plans to reopen So So’s Lounge.

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