Live Music Returns to Suzie’s

By Zach Mosca

After a lengthy absence due to COVID-19, live music returns to Suzie’s Dogs & Drafts in Boardman. On Halloween night, the restaurant hosted a Halloween party featuring Youngstown-based band, The Locals.

The Locals is a cover band who performs covers of various rock artists such as The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Police, and Van Morrison.

Lead singer Garth Vocature said the band had to cancel shows after the pandemic hit. The band was scheduled to play shows for St. Patrick’s Day and Westside Bowl featuring musicians from Nashville, Tennessee. Vocature said he is happy to be able to play shows again.

“We were on a pretty nice streak with shows before COVID happened. We had lined up about six or seven shows that we were really looking forward to … [canceling the shows] stunk, but we’re just glad that we’re able to be playing again, even if it’s not under normal circumstances,” Vocature said. 

Unable to perform live for six months, Vocature said he and his bandmates couldn’t practice together during the beginning of the pandemic. Unlike other bands who transitioned to live-streamed or drive-in concerts, The Locals decided to hit pause. 

“For about six months, we didn’t even practice. We actually booked our first show here at Suzie’s in Boardman a few weeks back, and a couple weeks before that we had our first practices, so we were without any music for six solid months,” Vocature said.

Vocature and his band aren’t the only ones itching to be back. Fans of live entertainment are thrilled to be able to go out and see bands in bar settings again. Attendee Joey Vitello said before the pandemic, he went to concerts regularly.

“Even if we have to get slowly back to normal, I guess it’s better than to just not get back to normal at all,” Vitello said.

Vitello also said he noticed Suzie’s doesn’t get the amount of customers it usually did before the pandemic. The restaurant noticed the hit, too. Manager Michelle Packer said Suzie’s hasn’t had nearly as many customers as before.

With reduced indoor dining capacities, patio dining became more popular. Packer noted that the majority of customers sat in the outdoor dining area ever since Suzie’s reopened. Yet, as the weather gets colder, patios get less use.

The Locals return to the stage after a 6-month music hiatus to perform Halloween night at Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts. Photo by Zach Mosca

“I enlarged the patio. I literally stretched it out as far as I possibly could during the nice weather, but now that it’s colder out, we’ve lost all this, and probably during the nice weather, 80% of our customers were outdoor diners,” Packer said. 

Inside, tables were moved 6 feet apart to comply with social distancing guidelines. Though the bar area remains open, seating is limited.

Fans of live entertainment can check out Suzie’s Dogs & Drafts Facebook page for updates on upcoming concerts and events.