Youngstown Sports Grille looking into downtown, western PA

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Travis Stauffer (left) and Jenn LaCivita share a laugh on one of the Youngstown Sports Grille’s last nights. The restaurant, which serves as a shrine to all things Youngstown sports, closed on Saturday. Photo by Kevin Alquist/The Jambar.

Patrons said goodbye to the Youngstown Sports Grille in Boardman on Saturday.

The property owner is selling the South Avenue location, leaving Sean Pregibon, the owner, to find a new location.

Pregibon said he is looking into locations in western Pennsylvania and downtown Youngstown because he thinks his restaurant’s concepts will transfer well to those communities.

It is possible that Pregibon will re-open in Cranberry, Pa., under the name “The Sports Grille at Cranberry.” Pregibon said that even though he would drop “Youngstown” from the name, the theme would not change.

“The restaurant will honor western Pennsylvania and Ohio sports,” Pregibon said. “Part of that is telling the story of our roots in Youngstown.”

Regardless of the Pennsylvania location, Pregibon said a Youngstown location, complete with original memorabilia, will open.

One benefit of opening a location in the city, Pregibon said, is to give Youngstown State University students another reason to go downtown.

“If we have a spot downtown, there will be ample reasons for students to go downtown,” Pregibon said. “I have a special place in my heart for YSU students, and I’m passionate about Youngstown.”

A former business student at YSU, Pregibon was born and raised on Youngstown’s South Side. Pregibon said he’d like to be a pied piper for downtown.

Pregibon said he believes downtown business and entrepreneurial growth will continue exponentially as a result of the shale boom and the Youngstown Business Incubator.

Jenn LaCivita, a social work student at YSU and waitress at the Youngstown Sports Grille, said she would like to stay with the company. Still, she hated to see the bar’s Boardman location close.

“I think it’s sad, but it’s a good thing for the company,” LaCivita said.

LaCivita added that she has worked at the Boardman location for two years and would like to move downtown if the restaurant ends up opening there.

LaCivita and her co-workers were told about the closing early last week in what was an emotional meeting.

“I told all 50 of my employees at my first opportunity,” Pregibon said. “There were a lot of tears at the meeting. I didn’t expect that.”

Pregibon added that his employees, nearly half of which are students at YSU or elsewhere, have grown to be like family.

“I respect them because they’re the lifeline of my business,” Pregibon said.

He said his first priority was to help his employees find work.

“They are going to school and need a job,” Pregibon said. “We’ve found about half of them jobs, and we haven’t even closed yet.”

When news of the closing broke, Pregibon said he received various phone calls from business owners with job offers.

Travis Stauffer, a power plant technology student at YSU, was at the Youngstown Sports Grille on Friday night, eating and drinking with a group of friends.

“Sadly, this is the first time I’ve ever been here,” Stauffer said. “For this place, at least, the end means a new beginning.”

Down the street at Happy Hour Bar and Grill, bar tender Stefan Syrjanen said he hopes to see an increase in business from the closing.

“I hope to see some of the local patrons who frequented Youngstown Sports Grille find a new home at Happy Hour,” Syrjanen said.