Local bar reopens

Jill Brower

The legendary Kelly’s pub of Bryn Mawr reopened to the public on March 9 as Kelly’s Restaurant and Taproom after being closed for nearly a decade. The original bar, which stood at the corner of Lancaster Avenue and Roberts Road since the 1940s, was a longtime favorite of University students.

Eugene Mitchell, ’89, along with a group of fellow University alumni and local residents, bought the building in an effort to recreate and expand upon the popular bar. “When the opportunity came up to buy the land all of us thought it was a great idea,” Mitchell said. “We remember what Kelly’s was when we were in college – it was the place to go.”

Construction began on the building in 2003, and Mitchell originally anticipated a December 2004 opening. That date was pushed back as delays were encountered with Lower Merion Township.

“The township was reluctant to allow the bar to reopen,” Mitchell said. “But we took the time to understand their concerns, which were relevant. I think we’ve come to a happy medium.”

The new construction added an additional story to the original structure, as well as a mezzanine area. The ground floor contains dining tables and a full bar, lined with floor to ceiling windows facing Lancaster Avenue.

The upstairs houses another bar in the smoke-free dining area. A 600-square-foot kitchen provides a full dinner and limited late-night menu.

Incorporating a restaurant was just one of the compromises made by the owners to appease township officials who were concerned about noise and safety issues.

Mitchell and his partners also conceded to close the upstairs portion when the kitchen closed and to keep the outside deck area off-limits for two years until the issue is revisited by the township.

Although the original Kelly’s was primarily a University hangout, Mitchell stresses their current mission to incorporate local residents.

The bar’s opening, which fell during the University’s semester recess, was targeted as such to “establish ourselves locally and get off on the right foot with the community,” Mitchell said.

But Mitchell also emphasizes that “the college is part of the community.” He said, “It has been here longer than anything else.”

Since University students have returned from break, Kelly’s has quickly become a new addition to the Main Line bar scene.

Mitchell and general manager Dan Morris have lined up specials to entice customers, such as $2 happy hour drafts, $2 Coors Lights during University basketball games and 25-cent wings on Mondays. Kelly’s also makes its own house lager.

Mitchell noted that he particularly hopes to cater to such events as the NCAA tournament games, broadcast on more than ten televisions, and homecoming weekend.

Senior Callen Fishman visited Kelly’s on March 14 and noted that it had a “different crowd than the rest of the bars around campus. It was a nice change of pace and gives more options to the bar scene,” she said.

Many University alumni and former Kelly’s patrons, however, are surprised at the reformed watering hole. Bill Sheridan, ’76, remembers Kelly’s as “a complete dive.”

“But when it closed,” he added, “it was like the University closing. It was part of your education.”

Sheridan and fellow alumnus, Bill Apsey, ’76, recall the jukebox, pool tables, cheap Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and frequent raids by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board as inherent parts of their Kelly’s memories.

“It was definitely just a college hangout,” Apsey said, adding that occasionally professors also stopped by. “Every junior and senior was there every week.”

Apsey was especially surprised by the addition of a kitchen. “The nicest food they used to have was a Slim Jim,” he said.

But more than anything, alumni remember the Kelly’s atmosphere. “It was a place where you would run into everyone you knew,” Tim Whitaker, ’70, said.

Rev. John Stack, O.S.A., Vice President of Student Life and class of 1971, also frequented Kelly’s in his undergraduate days.

Despite differences from the original bar, he anticipates current students taking the new establishment under their wing.

“Students now don’t have any recollection of what it used to be like…so if the students decide to frequent it, it will be because of their own experiences,” he said. “We don’t have a senior bar [near] campus and if run responsibly, it could be a great addition to the social scene.”

Apsey echoed Stack’s sentiments. “It’s up to the new students to make it theirs,” he said.