Staff and patron share a behind-the-scenes look at the Worthington watering hole
John Lindt has only been coming to Ruckmoor Lounge for about six years, but he knows the long history of the Worthington watering hole, which opened in 1958. He can score on his first try while playing the bar's 30-year-old ring toss game — purchased in the Bahamas — and he can keep up with younger patrons in beer pong, which is always set up. He's worked his way up to sitting in the corner of the L-shaped bar reserved for tenured customers (its nickname is a bit too colorful to print). He was also the one who pitched this story to Alive.
“It's just a nice joint; everyone's friendly,” he said, sharing that the bar picks up a lot of business from the Motel 6 nearby.
Years ago, Ruckmoor had its own hotel, the Pearly Gates Motel. The original owner, Robert Rucker, decided to have the hotel legally burned down by the fire department in 1980 so he could focus solely on the bar. Today's customers can see a framed picture of “The Big Burn” and that day's menu, which featured 25-cent drafts and hot dogs.
Though Robert has since died, the bar remains in the Rucker family. Robert's grandson, Ben, who is now the manager, remembers “climbing on the pool tables and throwing balls around” as a kid. He also recalls when the clientele consisted of “a whole bunch of 60-year-old men drinking a Budweiser can” amid “a big plume of smoke.”
The older, “rougher crowd” has given way to a more diverse mix of genders and ages, Ben said. “There's actually a nice little dynamic between some of the older regulars and then the newer people. … They got a lot of stories to tell a lot of the younger people.”
The patrons have also bonded with the staff, including bartender Ally Jones, who celebrates 10 years with the bar this month. “I've met some of my best friends here. It's not normal for you to get that close, 'cause it's your job, but it's a different scenario,” she said. “And that's what kept me around.”
Looking ahead, Ben has specific goals for the establishment. “We don't want to lose the luster of the history of the bar,” he said. “We want somebody who was here 50 years ago to say, ‘Hey, I remember this bar' … but somebody who comes in today says, ‘This is a nice place to come into; it's clean but it still has that old, rustic feel.'”