Brothers Dean and Shane Gosney own 846 York St., the former address of the Green Derby, a restaurant that had a 70-year run in Newport serving its famous fish sandwich among other American fare. The Gosneys are giving the building a full renovation. They said they have found an operator, and the business is expected to open in July.
“The reason we bought it was the history of the building,” Dean said. “But we’re not restaurant people. We’re building people.”
The original two-story building, located on the northwest corner of Ninth and York streets, is 1,300 square feet on each floor. The main dining area will be on the first floor, with a dining room on the second available for private events. Coming down is the single-story addition along Ninth Street, to the rear of the building. Going up in its place is a 1,400-square-foot addition for a kitchen, as well as a patio with an outdoor bar.
As part of the renovation, the Gosneys removed formstone, likely installed in the 1950s, from the facade, revealing the original brick construction, as well as a hand-painted “Green Derby” sign on the front of the building, likely dating back to the 1947 opening. It is that sort of historical detail that the Gosneys want to preserve and highlight, even if the new restaurant is not named the Green Derby.
“Is it going to be the Green Derby? Probably not,” said Dean. “Because the Green Derby becomes the building and the location, not the restaurant. That building will become the Green Derby and stay the Green Derby. There’s not anyone over the age of 50 years old in Northern Kentucky that doesn’t know the name the Green Derby. That name recognition carries a lot of weight.”
The Green Derby closed in 2018, and its business and quality were in decline in its last few years. But before that, it was a destination. Buicks and Cadillacs would fill the Green Derby’s parking lot on Fridays during Lent, when a faithful clientele would roll in for a fish sandwich. Mike Brown was a Green Derby diner and could be spotted at a table at lunch on a weekday, taking a break from Cincinnati Bengals business.
The Gosneys believe that several factors will immediately bring customers to the new restaurant: the revitalization of York Street specifically and Newport in general; the completion of the new 7,000-seat music venue, located a few blocks north on Route 8; and the Green Derby’s legacy.
“The two iconic Newport restaurants are Pompilio’s and the Green Derby,” Shane says. “Everybody knows them, and they’ve been around forever.”
The building was built in 1876. Before the Green Derby would open about 70 years later, several different businesses operated there: a grocery for the first 30 years or so; later, a butcher shop, and then a pool hall. The Green Derby opened in 1947.
The Gosneys traced the history using old city directories. They found a photo on the internet of the exterior of the building dating to the 1937 flood. They learned that the second floor was a private residence for the grocery store operator and later was leased as an apartment. That top floor also shares in Newport’s legacy as Cincinnati’s former vice-friendly enclave to the south – though not to the extent of housing a strip club or prostitution operation, such as the old Jai Alai club on York, across Ninth Street from the Green Derby.
“Did they play cards on the second floor? Yeah,” Dean said. A local business owner told Dean he’d play cards there in the 1960s. “These weren’t a few-hours card games. These games went on for days.”
The Gosneys, who grew up in Florence, are attracted to Newport’s history. Their engineering firm, Hal-Pe, is located in the former Newport Steel headquarters on West Ninth Street.
“When we moved in here, some people thought we were crazy, but it’s the best thing we’ve ever done,” Dean said.
Added Shane: “We’ve had no problems on the west side. We like it so much we bought the Green Derby.”
According to Campbell County’s property-valuation website, Gosney Properties LLC purchased 846 York Street last year for $185,000.
“We just said it was a shame to see that building be condemned and possibly in a lot of trouble, so we looked into buying it,” Dean said.
“The reality is Shane and I are just a couple of geeks. We’re engineers. We like old stuff, and it’s fun to save things and bring them back to life. I have a pocket watch from the 1800s, and I bring it with me to work everyday. I buy old broken watches, and I fix them – I try to. With our kind of minds, that’s what we do. I appreciate how well things were built 100 years ago. If you take a piece of machinery from 100 years ago, and it still keeps accurate time, what a great piece of work that was,” he said.
And in Newport, one of the city’s markers of time sits at Ninth and York, and it continues to keep on ticking.
By Chris Varias