Hydraulic Bar Opens Inside Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill in Hamilton

The bar, located in the complex’s conference center, was named after the hydraulic canal that used to power the old paper mill it currently inhabits.

Jun 12, 2024 at 5:14 am
Hydraulic Bar, 600 N. B St., Hamilton
Hydraulic Bar, 600 N. B St., Hamilton Photo: Logan Turner

Similar to other Midwestern Rust Belt towns, the city of Hamilton has seen an influx of new developments and businesses as it begins to rebrand its image. What originally started as a concerted effort to build up Main and High streets in Hamilton has slowly morphed into a citywide renaissance. One such example of the city’s massive overhaul is the building, planning and opening of the Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill in December 2022.

Now billed as the largest indoor sports facility in North America, Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill is a 1.2 million-square-foot property that includes basketball, volleyball and pickleball courts; a food court; arcade; a full-sized outdoor turf field; conference center; hotel; and much, much more. 

The project called for a complete renovation of Hamilton’s old Champion Paper Mill. The old mill sat vacant alongside the Miami River since its closure in 2012. 

Spooky Nook is also now the site of a brand new watering hole, Hydraulic Bar.

Finding out Spooky Nook was opening a bar was quite a surprise for many Hamilton residents, who saw the massive compound as nothing more than a place for athletes to hone their skills. However, it seems like the owners of Spooky Nook are looking to integrate themselves even more into the Hamilton community. The complex has already opened its doors to other local Hamilton businesses, like Municipal Brew Works and Sara’s House. 

Spooky Nook held the ribbon cutting for Hydraulic Bar on March 20. The bar, located in the complex’s conference center at 600 N. B St., was named after the hydraulic canal that used to power the old paper mill it currently inhabits. The bar still holds a lot of the remnants of the old mill within the design and decor within its walls. 

Sara Awsumb, the director of food and beverage for Spooky Nook, sat down with CityBeat to speak more about how the bar worked to preserve the old mill’s history. 

“There were a lot of challenges,” Awsumb says. “When you’re dealing with historical tax credits and working with a historical society, there are a lot of little nuances that you have to keep in mind. There are normal things you can’t do that you have to work around, like putting signs on the outside of the building. We’re not allowed to do that.” 

Awsumb also explained how these historical hurdles led to the bar’s design. Hydraulic Bar showcases massive concrete pillars and exposed brick walls that were a part of the original foundation of the paper mill. 

Although Hydraulic Bar prominently flaunts remnants of the past, it certainly doesn’t appear outdated. The interior features a giant 58-foot bartop, as well as a 122-seat dining space. The brick and concrete play with sleek metal framings and neutral colors to create a modern, eclectic space. 

Hydraulic Bar has the appearance of a bar that can be successful, but with any new venture comes obstacles. High Street and Main Street in downtown Hamilton are littered with quality bars and eateries. So how can you stand out when the standards in the neighborhood are so high? Awsumb spoke to CityBeat about some of the issues facing Hydraulic Bar. 

“It’s hard because people see us as a sports facility, you know? I think, once they come in, they will see the second-biggest convention center in the state. We have this huge, beautiful bar and restaurant. We have this grand hotel. We’ll have another beautiful restaurant at some point. Once people realize we’re here, they’ll come.”

Awsumb also noted the lack of business they see during the weekdays, while the weekends are super busy, thanks in large part to the sporting events on Fridays and Saturdays. Despite the weekend warriors currently making up the majority of their customers, Awsumb says that the community has largely been receptive to the new bar.

“We get a lot of positive feedback. We have people who are now starting to come back every Wednesday and Thursday from the community, and they’re bringing friends with them, which is great. We’re starting to see that regular base come through.” Awsumb also credits local Hamilton officials for being easy to work with during the process of not only building Spooky Nook, but opening Hydraulic Bar as well.

Hydraulic Bar currently sells specialty cocktails to go along with full bar service. They also offer one of the largest bourbon and whiskey selections in the Cincinnati area, carrying over 50 different selections. The bar hosts a happy hour from 3-6:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday with a variety of discounts across all types of drinks, along with a specialty happy hour menu with a few select food items. 

Aside from the happy hour during the weekdays, Hydraulic Bar also has other promotions to encourage people to come down during the week. Wednesdays are “Wine Down Wednesdays,” with discounts on all wines. Hydraulic Bar also does a trivia night every Thursday evening. 

If you want to visit Hydraulic Bar, operating hours are currently 3 p.m. to midnight on Wednesdays and Thursdays, 2 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Fridays, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays. 

Hydraulic Bar, 600 N. B St., Hamilton. More info: spookynooksports.com.