Larry’s Covington

Covington, Kentucky

Larry's - Covington Dive Bar - Exterior

Field Rating

9

out of 10

Hot dogs, tater tots, Pac-Man and beer.

The Basics

536 W 9th St
Covington, KY 41011

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In Short

Larry’s occupies a Covington, Kentucky, corner that has housed a bar of some variety for over a century, breathing new life into a structure that sat dormant after drug-related infractions shuttered its most recent dive bar tenant. Opened in 2019, the new Larry’s calls back to the space’s past lives, inspired by signage found in the basement and a hot dog machine left on the counter.

Field Note

Dive bar veterans are probably justified in being a bit wary about establishments that refer to themselves as dive bars and opened any time after 1985. But there are exceptions to every well-deserved reservation and Larry’s Club in Convington, Kentucky, just across the river from Cincinnati makes a strong case as one such exception. Fresh owners have revitalized a space that has long served as a Covington corner bar, complete with significantly checkered past.

The current incarnation of Larry’s opened in 2019 thanks to owners Paul Weckman & Emily Wolff, veterans of the Covington bar scene thanks to ownership of nearby Otto’s and Frida 602. Weckman & Wolff saw in what is now Larry’s Club a chance to revive a historic staple of the Covington dive bar scene left to ruin. A bar of some kind has operated within the Larry’s structure for a century or so, changing hands and names multiple times over the years.

Just a block away from the I-71 freeway, Larry’s feels like it’s hanging off the edge of Covington.

Just a block away from the I-71 freeway, Larry’s feels like it’s hanging off the edge of Covington and thanks to a long history of on-site drug use, the dive bar did just about slip away completely. Drug Enforcement Agency raids in 2001 and 2008 ultimately shuttered the space, which sat dormant for 10 years until revival by Weckman & Wolff. Prior to turning into a hub of drug activity, the bar bore names including Newt’s Tavern, Larry’s and Larry’s All American Cafe, ultimately prompting Weckman & Wolff to leave well enough alone and preserve the “Larry’s” moniker. A mosaic on the bar’s front step reads “Jugas” in reference to original Larry’s Bar owner Henry Jugas as another nod to the bar’s history.

Luckily, assuming ownership of the building also included taking on an inventory of divey interior elements that Weckman & Wolff leaned into, preserving the history of the space by celebrating the artifacts collected through the decades. Signage found in the basement upon purchase can now be seen dotting the walls of Larry’s and the hot dog machine found on a counter sparked today’s Larry’s menu populated by multiple hot dog varieties. The key to any dive bar revival is to accentuate the powerful authenticity that comes with longevity and the Larry’s corner dive bar does just that.

The decor and vibe feel vaguely 1970s-era, down to the sit-down Pac-Man machine that can be found along one of the bar’s walls. Newspaper coverage of the DEA raid of the ex-Larry’s incarnation can be found framed along the bar’s walls, as can other historic photos taken in an around the structure. The giant buffalo head behind the bar looks a bit less vintage and DEA-associated, sitting next to a bright red neon sign reading “All American Cafe.”

Easy to miss is the 1970s baseball card nook that over the years has doubled as a spot for regulars to mark their height.

As an homage to the Covington dive bar’s unique location, Larry’s is ripe with nicknames, including “The Corner Club” thanks to its obvious corner plot and pool table as well as “Last Bar on the Right” for even more obvious reasons. The pool table in particular is worth seeking out thanks to the stained glass-style light inscribed with “Billiards” that hangs above it very much in line with the 1970s vibe inside Larry’s. Easy to miss is the 1970s baseball card nook that over the years has doubled as a spot for regulars to mark their height against a white stretch of wall, signing their name to chart their progress.

Given momentum by the hot dog machine and tabletop deep fryer found upon purchasing the building, the Larry’s Covington menu features hot dogs and tater tots prominently. Daily food special do branch out from the deep fried theme and brunch is offered on weekends. A simple set of craft cocktails can be found at the end of the menu, notable here thanks to the fact that these craft cocktail options are offered at dive bar-friendly prices, a rare find.

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