Univ. favorite Kelly’s bar to reopen in fall



Jessie Markovetz

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LOWER MERION TWP. – Students today probably don’t remember much of Kelly’s bar, the watering hole of choice for University students for more than half a century.But that is poised to change in August, as the bar’s new management hopes to reopen the establishment in time for the fall semester.”We’re going to keep it as an authentic Irish pub type of thing,” said Eugene Mitchell ’89, the owner and president of the Main Line Restaurant Group that bought the rights to Kelly’s.Mitchell, an Ardmore resident who remembered Kelly’s from his days as a student, fondly recalled the so-called “legacy” of the pub. Students today probably have little recollection of the bar at the corner of Roberts Road and Lancaster Avenue, he said.”But mention it to parents or older brothers or sisters and there will be a reaction,” he said. “It was a very friendly bar and a gathering place for seniors and law and graduate students. It was also a big part of the local community.”Kelly’s originally opened more than 60 years ago as the Ivy Inn. The bar closed in 1999 following its then-owner’s desire to create more of a downtown nightclub in Lower Merion Township. Renovations to the building were never completed, and the bank subsequently repossessed Kelly’s.Rev. John Stack, O.S.A., vice president of Student Life, remembered the relationship between Kelly’s and students.”You were hardly there as an underclassman and hardly anywhere else as a senior,” Stack, the former University dean of students, recalled.The bar was responsible about carding and “didn’t rely on underage business,” he said. “My own feeling is that there were places that were probably worse.”According to Stack, Kelly’s was actually called The Forest several decades ago when the establishment changed hands. This had no impact on the student patrons, however.”They can name it whatever they want, it will always be called Kelly’s,” Stack said.Mitchell is only one of a group of former students trying to reopen Kelly’s as a bar and restaurant type of establishment, which will stand two stories tall and occupy 3,000 square feet.”It’s been a struggle to work with the community and the township to avoid the pitfalls some local establishments have had over the years,” Mitchell said.”I don’t think there was a community official … against reopening Kelly’s,” Mitchell said, attributing neighbor concerns to a desire to “avoid another uncontrolled watering hole.”Stack estimates that about a half dozen bars in the area have closed since he became dean of students in 1982, with the February closing of the Brick Bar in Bryn Mawr being the most recent.”Lower Merion never cared much for Kelly’s,” Stack said.”I think they saw it as symbolic of all the bars Villanova students went to, even if it wasn’t as problematic.”So far, however, township officials have reacted to the planned bar and restaraunt in a positive manner.”The town would like it to reopen as a restaurant,” township commissioner Charlie Bloom said.”If it is going to reopen, [the neighbors] would want it to reopen as a restaurant, not just another taproom.”When Kelly’s starts serving drinks again, officials speculated it will only be a matter of time before students make it their favorite again.”I imagine once it reopens, they’ll be back,” Bloom said.