After more than seven years of gracing the square in Gainesville with live music, cocktails and food, Mule Camp Tavern is closing permanently Monday, Aug. 24.
Ronnie DiOrio, the bar’s owner, said his lease’s approaching expiration and the building’s change in landlords catalyzed his decision to shut the doors to his business. He said now felt like the right time to seek out other endeavors.
"Honestly it’s stressful running a bar,” DiOrio said. “It’s hard, it’s run its course. I’m ready to work on my career sunset.”
DiOrio said the historic building has been a staple of downtown Gainesville, having harbored bars from different owners for decades. He said it is one of few buildings that survived the 1936 Gainesville tornado outbreak.
DiOrio said he is excited to move on but will miss the bar’s live entertainment.
"We’ve had the best music in Northeast Georgia for the longest time,” he said.
Instead of retiring from the food service industry, DiOrio has set his sights on starting a Japanese-style noodle shop called Ronnie’s Ramen.
DiOrio said he recently discovered a passion for cooking ramen at home. He makes all his noodles from scratch and enjoys concocting a range of broths and meat combinations.
After testing his ramen out a couple of times at Mule Camp Tavern and receiving positive feedback from customers, DiOrio said he felt inspired to open his own ramen shop.
“We’ll have a couple of staples and have ‘bowls of the day’ and rotate them,” he said. “I’ll also do other Japanese dishes. I make fresh home-ground gyoza.”
Ronnie’s Ramen will partner up with John Bouasy’s Wok N Roll food truck, which has built a reputation around Gainesville since it opened in February 2019.
Bouasy said he plans to work as a chef at the upcoming restaurant, as well as park his food truck outside of the building. His menu includes eggrolls with an American-style twist. For example, his barbecue rolls are filled with pulled pork, brisket and collard greens.
“They’re Asian on the outside, American on the inside,” Bouasy, who has family ties to Laos, said. “Kind of like me.”
Growing up in Habersham, Bouasy said he has always regarded Mule Camp Tavern as the place to go during the evening to listen to music and drink. Although he feels sad to see it go, he said he is looking forward to the new opportunity ahead.
“Say what you want about the place, it’s there for you when you need it,” Bouasy said while reminiscing about Mule Camp Tavern. “It’s always been a staple. It will feel weird when it’s gone.”