Business & economy

Action’s Bar and Card House: ‘a dream and a vision’

Two years ago, Michael Kelly opened a sports bar and card room in Ontario – then got hit in just days with state-mandated pandemic restrictions.

He managed to weather the not-great start for Action’s Sports Bar and Card House at 490 E. Lane. 

Kelly said opening a sports bar and cardroom started with a “dream and a vision.”  

Kelly, who is from Meridian, had been spending his Saturdays in Ontario playing poker, where social gaming is legal. Such card games between players at a public place that is not a casino and where the establishment does not make money off the game is banned in Idaho. 

Kelly said after coming to Ontario for nearly four years for card games, he decided the city needed a sports bar. 

So on March 10, 2020, Kelly and his then-business partner signed a multi-year lease to open Action’s. Three days later, the pandemic shut everything down, especially the hospitality industry. 

Kelly said his determination allowed him to hang in there and weather nearly two years of pandemic protocols that included closures, restrictions and delays to open for business. 

While many businesses qualified for Covid relief funding, Action’s did not since they were not open before the pandemic. However, Kelly said he was fortunate to own two other businesses in Idaho that allowed him to ride out the worst of the pandemic. Kelly said his companies include a home theater company and a marketing firm. 

While the cardroom has been open since the spring of 2020, the bar and grill opened in July. During that time, Kelly said Action’s has built a strong business with a varied demographic. 

The card room, which sits above the bar and grill, hosts Texas hold ’em, poker and other card games. 

While the house does not take any money, Kelly said Action’s can volunteer a dealer to work the game. The players can tip the dealer or the house, but Action’s does not charge an entry fee. 

Kelly’s customers can catch sporting events on the 14 televisions in the bar. He said on a Sunday, for example, Action’s has the complete NFL schedule with every game televised. Plus, NBA, NHL and MLB games as well. 

Kelly said the bar also televises horse racing, offers betting and video poker.  

In his short time in business, Kelly and his customers have also been giving back to the community. 

Earlier this month at the Ontario Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Origins Outreach Initiative, a local nonprofit, announced it was short 60 coats for a coat drive. Kelly raised his hand, and in two weeks, he and his customers collected 100 coats. 

He said he offered $1 off on drinks at the bar and $500 in chips to use during a poker tournament to those who donated coats. 

“It was a win-win for everybody,” Kelly said. “It was a win back for my customers. They got a little benefit, and most importantly, it benefited the community.” 

After the coat drive, Kelly said Actions launched right into a toy drive for Origins and has recently collected over 100 toys for needy kids. 

Kelly said its important for him to give back.  

“I want to make sure that we’re helping others out,” Kelly said. “I’ve been blessed over the years.” 

Actions Bar and Card House is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. During tournaments, the card room is open until the end of the game. 

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