the social

‘The Social’ Wants to Become Downtown’s Bar for Everyone

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The downtown nightlife district will get a new addition this month when The Social opens.

The bar at 122 W. Commerce St. is in the same location that was home to Off the Rail bar, which closed in 2019, and before that, Rust Belt Taphouse.

The Social will feature a game room with pool tables, air hockey and darts, plus a kitchen that will offer flatbreads and paninis.

Daniel Fahd, owner of The Social, is shooting for an Oct. 23 opening.
He says it will be a comfortable and relaxed place. “It’s not Italian, it’s not Irish, it’s not German… it’s for anybody,” Fahd said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been putting a squeeze on bars and restaurants since March. But you’d never know it by downtown, where two new places opened this summer – Prima Cucina Italiana restaurant and Gringo’s Tacos and Tequila.

In addition to The Social, another bar and restaurant – Tequila Coyote – will open in coming weeks at the corner of West Federal and North Phelps streets.

“The industry is getting hurt by COVID,” Fahd said, citing capacity limits and the 11 p.m. curfew. “But from the business side, it’s a good time to buy. If I’m going to struggle for a few months, I can survive that.”

The downtown nightlife scene is about undergo a big change; the project that is turning North Phelps Street into a pedestrian-only mall will open later this fall.

Cold weather and COVID will mute the initial excitement but the mall should deliver big benefits next year. It will be a focal point for nightlife, with outdoor seating, when things get back to normal.

While The Social is not directly on the mall, it’s close enough, Fahd said.

“Everything is going to be way different when it opens,” he said. “I expect there will be festivals going on there, and it will bring good income to the bar industry downtown.”

Fahd said the mall “was one of the things that encouraged me to get this place.”

A native of Orlando, Fla., who is married to a woman from Youngstown, Fahd has a long history in the bar business. He opened and operated one of four liquor establishments in EPCOT Center in Florida: a bar with a Moroccan theme.

While the previous two establishments did not last, Fahd says the location of The Social is good and getting better.

“It’s exactly where I want to be,” he said. “For a business, you have to look at traffic. If you can get the pedestrian traffic and the college traffic, that would be great.

“And the way I look at it, Federal Street parking is tight, and if there is nowhere to park, you’re going to have park [on Commerce Street].”

Another plus was that the bar is a turnkey operation and required only cosmetic work to get it ready to open. Outside of a few lighting fixtures and decorations, it was ready to go.

Its main room has high-top tables near the entrance, with a bar at the far end. A staircase leads to a loft with more seating, as well as the game room and restrooms.

The Social is on the street level of the Erie Terminal Building, a downtown landmark. One Hot Cookie and a vacant restaurant space are also on the ground level, with apartments on the upper floors.

Fahd said his bar will offer craft cocktails and a variety of beers. It will initially be open from 4 p.m. to closing, Wednesday through Sunday, and employ eight.

When the pandemic subsides, it could open earlier for lunch.

Entertainment will include DJs and live bands, and Fahd also wants The Social to be a home for art of all sorts.

“I want to host local artists,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how old they are. It’s just about their talent. I want to help them get their voice, their art out there,” he said, explaining it could be music, visual art of theater.

“If I could find someone to play piano, that would be great, too,” he said, “because this area would be great for a piano bar.”

Pictured: The Social is expected to open later this month at 122 W. Commerce St. downtown.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.