National Tavern Month Has Ohio Roots


Six decades ago this month, an Ohio tavern owner was the impetus for a nationwide promotion that touted the neighborhood tavern as the “Friendliest Place in Town.”

2019 marks the 66th anniversary of the designation of May as National Tavern Month. The National Licensed Beverage Association first unveiled the national tavern campaign in 1953.

National Tavern Month was the brainchild of Cincinnati tavern owner Jimmie Donovan. Donovan was owner of both the Losantiville Cafe and Jimmie’s Tap Room; he also was a past president of the Buckeye Tavern Association of Hamilton County and the Buckeye Retail Liquor Dealers Association, the forerunner to today’s Ohio Licensed Beverage Association.

As president of NLBA, Donovan went on national television 66 years ago to proclaim the first observance of National Tavern Month. In addition to his efforts to establish the monthlong tavern promotion, Donovan also was behind the long-running “Friendliest Place in Town” slogan, which was unveiled in 1957 and is still used today in National Tavern Month promotional materials.

Thanks to recent efforts by American Beverage Licensees, the National Tavern Month promotion has moved into the digital age with the addition of the hastags #TheFriendliestPlaceInTown and #TavernMonth, as well as a website,

Since the end of Prohibition, American bar and tavern owners have created the world’s most diverse and innovative beverage alcohol marketplace, serving thousands of products in settings ranging from quiet corner pubs to cutting-edge nightclubs. They are part of an industry that drives employment and provides more than $76 billion in economic impact each year, as well as billions of dollars more in tax revenue to federal, state and local governments.

Today’s beverage consumers are more knowledgeable than ever and want to know the story that’s in every bottle. Bars and taverns continue to be laboratories for new drinks, proving grounds for hot brands and cultivators of emerging trends, all while reliably providing popular, long-standing customer favorites. They do all of this with a sense of responsibility that any business licensed to sell beverage alcohol must maintain.

In addition to dedicating themselves to their businesses, bar and tavern owners are engaged in the legislative process in their respective states and in Washington, D.C. Beverage licensees support laws aimed at stopping drunken driving, and also are committed to growing awareness of and preventing underage access to alcohol. Small business and regulatory matters are also front-and-center issues for licensees.

Jimmie Donovan may not have envisioned the impact on-premises operators would have on today’s culture and economy, but he showed incredible vision by seeing a need for a national effort to recognize and support those who own, operate and work for bars and taverns. And that’s really what National Tavern Month is all about, supporting an institution which has supported its citizens and community since Europeans first landed on our shores, bringing their much valued ale houses with them.

We are pleased to salute the social and economic contributions of the tavern industry — as well as the memory of Ohio’s own Jimmie Donovan — through the observance during the month of May of National Tavern Month.