Dover Gardens is making a comeback.
Just a year after a car being pursued by police plowed into the tavern, owners Gary and Erica Hurst are reopening this month. They are working hard to bring the same friendly feel to Dover Gardens that made it a Westlake landmark.
“We want people to know that Dover Gardens will still be the same local neighborhood tavern that it has always been. We gave it a nice, fresh new look, but our philosophies will be the same and we just want people to feel welcome,” said the Hursts. “It will still be a great neighborhood hang spot to watch a game, have a drink, a great burger and some wings.”
The incident that injured 13 people, some seriously, occurred Oct. 23, 2014. A Cleveland man who stole a vehicle from Sweetbriar Golf Course in Avon Lake rammed the building after a police pursuit.
Westlake police attempted to use stop sticks on Detroit Road, but they failed to puncture the stolen truck’s tires. Driver Brandon Pawlak hit a curb, lost control of the truck and crashed into Dover Gardens Tavern, which was filled with patrons. Two patrons were hit nearly head-on, causing severe lower body injuries. Two bartenders were pinned behind the bar and also sustained multiple lower body injuries. In total, 13 people were injured. Pawlak was charged with more than 30 counts, including multiple counts of Aggravated Robbery and Aggravated Vehicular Assault. He is now serving a 35-year prison sentence.
“What stands out most prominently about the crash is how quickly your life can change and how needless this event was,” said Gary Hurst. “It has permanently changed the lives of so many innocent people. Myself, my wife and children have had to make so many adjustments this year just to stay afloat and we know we have quite the journey ahead of us, basically having to restart this business from the ground up.”
The Hursts wanted to rebuild the business out of respect for the status it has held as a Westlake landmark. Memorabilia was lost, however, in the incident. “The memorabilia that was lost mainly was the original bar from the 1930’s and some historical photographs that were hanging in the front room of the tavern,” said the Hursts.
“We know that this tragic event has altered so many lives, those who were physically injured, those who witnessed the event,” add the Hursts. “We hope everyone has healed physically and emotionally and can somehow move on with their lives.
“We would just like to thank everyone who has supported us through this journey the last year: family and friends, customers and a special thanks to Schafer Development who really transformed the tavern. Their workers were all so great to work with and helped us through the whole process. The mayor and the building department also helped make our rebuilding process a smooth one.”
Opening date is set for Tuesday, November 17 if everything goes as planned. “We are working diligently to accomplish this goal,” said the Hursts.