|BERNIE URBAS serves up two beers at Urbas Cafe in downtown Lorain.|
(Journal Photo by Chief Photographer Tom Whittington)
Lorain's Urban Renewal Dooms Popular Urbas Cafe (Part 1)
By STEVE SIDLO
BERNIE URBAS filled another huge stein with draft beer and set it in front of a customer. He swabbed with a rag at the top of a battered table in the Urbas Cafe his family has owned and run since 1940 in downtown Lorain.
"Broadway on a Saturday night then was so busy you couldn't even find a parking place," he said recalling when the bar on W. Erie Avenue across the street from City Hall first opened its doors. "There wasn't even room for walking on the sidewalks."
Today, though, the downtown is dead. Most of the rundown buildings around Broadway north of Fourth Street are closed and boarded up. Soon they will be joined by the Urbas Cafe, as yet another Lorain landmark succumbs to the relentless process of urban renewal.
The Urbas Cafe will leave a particularly rich heritage, especially for the many government officials who through the years have made it their favorite watering hole.
"WE'VE GOT some second generation politicians who come in here now," said Miss Helen Urbas, who along with her brother Joe lives above the establishment. Bernie, another of her brothers, lives at 1432 S. Lakeview Boulevard.
"Mother always was active in politics," she explained, referring to the late Mrs. Anna Urbas. "She was a charter member of the Lorain Democratic Women's Club."
Joe Urbas, who is 63, is today still politically active, having just been reelected to another term as secretary of the Lorain City Central Democratic Committee.
"They all come in here," the 62-year old Bernie asserted about the bar's political customers. "Lausche, when he was a governor he was in here. I think they come because they know they can meet their friends in here."
(Frank J. Lausche of Cleveland, a former five-term Ohio governor and U.S. Senator, is of Slovenian origin, as is the Urbas family."
LEGEND HAS IT that there has been much wheeling and dealing in the bar by local politicians after their meetings across the street. Miss Urbas gestured to one scarred table where some of these secret deals are rumored to have taken place.
"They want that for the new Council Chambers," she said, laughing. "Elio (Jacobozzi, city service director) talked to Joe. He said, "We've got to have this table."
"We kid Elio when he comes in here and tell him they have to build around us here (for the urban renewal). They can't tear this building down."
The building will be demolished, probably within the next six months or so, according to Sanford Prudoff, community development director. Lorain councilmen, who are frequent customers there recently passed legislation clearing the way for the city to appropriate it for urban renewal.
"We know eventually we're going to have to move," said Bernie Urbas. "But we don't want to. We want to stay right here."
Tomorrow: Part 2