A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

One Holland Restaurant Group buys Barleycorns, keeping management, employees and tradition

Barleycorns, which for nearly 50 years has been the region’s favorite neighborhood sports bar and grill, has been sold to Taylor Mill-based One Holland Restaurant Group in a joining of two of Northern Kentucky’s most recognizable and successful restaurant operators.

Joe Heil, whose brother Ken founded Barleycorns with an original location on Sixth Street in Downtown Cincinnati, will continue to oversee the three existing Barleycorn’s locations in Cold Spring, Florence and Lakeside Park, where the outdoor patio is a popular outdoor dining and gathering spot.

Joe will serve as Vice President of Barleycorn’s Operations for One Holland and four family members – including Joe’s son, daughter, nephew, and niece – will continue to work at Barleycorns, as will all 160 employees.

“We celebrated our 47th anniversary Dec. 7 and along with reminiscing and remembering a lot of great stories, we have been thinking a lot about the succession of Barleycorns,” Joe Heil said. “We know that Gary Holland operates tremendous restaurants, cares about his employees, and is the right person to carry on this great tradition.

“My brother Ken is no longer involved in day-to-day operations, but he knows that the tradition, employees, and customers of Barleycorns are in good hands,” Joe Heil said.

One Holland Founder and CEO Gary Holland – an Independence native and Lakeside Park resident – said he is humbled to add Barleycorns to his growing stable of restaurants.

“I have long admired Ken and Joe Heil and the entire Barleycorns team,” Holland said. “They work extremely hard and are driven by the same things as us – taking care of your guests and employees and providing great food and great service. I’m honored that they trusted me to take over this great tradition.”

Holland emphasized that customers will not notice any changes at Barleycorns.

“With Joe by my side, I can’t go wrong,” Holland said. “He’s one of the best there is in the business. I’m going to learn from him.”

Joe Heil

Ken and Joe Heil are two of 13 children raised by their parents in south Newport. The Heils were known as a close-knit, hard-working family with high moral standards and an equally strong work ethic that was a key factor in the growth and success of Barleycorns.

Ken Heil opened the original Barleycorns – which at one time had eight locations – in 1975 and took over as owner less than two years later. Joe Heil was only old enough to come in on the weekends and help clean up in those early days.

After originally serving a downtown clientele, Barleycorns migrated the Northern Kentucky suburbs and carved a successful niche as a place to watch sports – especially University of Kentucky games – and where customers can expect a great meal and tremendous service.

“Joe and Ken are top-notch operators,” Holland said. “They built Barleycorns into a Northern Kentucky institution. I promised them I wouldn’t mess that up.”

Gary Holland (Photo provided)

Holland has grown his company into multiple locations of Skyline Chili, LaRosa’s Pizzeria, First Watch and Dunkin restaurants in Northern Kentucky, Greater Cincinnati, Louisville, Lexington, and Georgetown. In 2020 Holland purchased the iconic Greyhound Tavern in Fort Mitchell and in October announced that he is bringing back Roy Rogers Restaurants to Greater Cincinnati with plans to open 10 locations over the next six years. He also recently purchased The Merrick Inn in Lexington.

The company, which is currently building three more First Watch locations in Louisville, has grown to nearly 2,000 employees.

Heil sees in Holland many of the same traits – drive, vision, tenacity and a commitment to treating customers and employees well – that he has observed in his brother, Ken, over the last five decades.

“These are guys that came from humble backgrounds and both started with nothing but one restaurant and a dream,” Heil said. “And they built two restaurant dynasties that are now coming together. It’s a great story that is still going on.”

Related Posts

Leave a Comment