After 50 years, The Pub bids adieu in Amherst

  • The Pub in Amherst STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/19/2019 11:03:21 PM
Modified: 12/19/2019 11:03:10 PM

AMHERST — After more than a half a century, The Pub, a popular downtown restaurant and bar, will be shuttering its doors as the building it occupies is slated for demolition.

The Pub, which opened in 1968 in a new building at 15 East Pleasant St., and over the years has hosted countless election night parties, performances by Natalie Cole when she was a student at the University of Massachusetts and fundraisers such as the Empty Bowls benefit for the Amherst Survival Center, closes after business on Saturday.

A “very special last night,” with a DJ and dancing, starts at 7 p.m. at the restaurant which has been a long-time dining destination for workers and families during the day and evening, and a place for socializing later at night.

The Pub is one of several businesses in three buildings at the northern end of downtown that were approved for demolition last spring. The other stores are located in the Summerlin Building at 11 East Pleasant and the Piper Building at 9 East Pleasant and are already beginning to close or move as 2019 comes to a close.

Eliana’s Barber Shop recently relocated to an office building at 196 North Pleasant St., while Amherst Nails, Kay Baker’s Antiques and Cousins Market all remain open for the time being.

Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Claudia Pazmany said the closing of The Pub is bittersweet since it’s a decision that is out of the hands of Dolly and Jerry Jolly, whose family has run the restaurant since the building was constructed in 1968. Attemps to reach the Jollys for comment were unsuccessful.

“We all have memories of our time at The Pub, and everyone is sad to see it go,” Pazmany said. “52 years is a testament to the Jolly family, their long-term commitment to Amherst and how they give back in myriad ways.”

One of the events The Pub has always been part of is the Daffodil Days benefit for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County, Pazmany said.

“The Pub has been a huge part of Amherst’s history and it’s a big loss, but also a great opportunity to move forth,” said Gabrielle Gould, executive director of the Amherst Business Improvement District.

Gould said she is happy to see the Jollys will have a new endeavor called Savannas Bar and Bistro, which will be located in a building being built on University Drive just south of Newmarket Center.

“It’s a whole new chapter and we’re excited to support them as a Chamber,” Pazmany said.

Still, The Pub’s closing comes only months after the Jollys were forced to shut down the long-running Rafter’s Sports Bar and Restaurant on Amity Street after that building sold to a marijuana company.

Forced to move

Over Thanksgiving weekend, Eliana Dabbous, who has run the barbershop since 2011, moved to 196 North Pleasant St. an office building that has free parking for patrons. The new site is already the third place for her business, after previously being located in the Carriage Shops, which was demolished in 2016 to make way for the One East Pleasant mixed-use project.

Dabbous said more college students and others are living in downtown, though redevelopment has been harmful to proprietors like her seeking affordable locations to rent.

“I’m happy about more students coming to town, but the town and developers don’t care about small businesses like us,” Dabbous said.

She had also developed the Malek Shawarma Mediterranean Cafe next to her barbershop. She closed that and doesn’t anticipate reopening, noting there is significant competition with the award-winning food at UMass that makes the restaurant business challenging.

The Summerlin building, mostly reconstructed around 1921 as a laundromat and later converted into the Tower pizza restaurant in the early 1960s, and the Piper Building, built in 1965, are expected to be torn down to make way for some type of project. Like The Pub building, they are owned by Laird Summerlin, of Edisto Island, South Carolina.

No plans for a redevelopment project have been filed at Town Hall, said Planning Director Christine Brestrup.

Pazmany said she is uncertain how the area will be redeveloped, whether it will be a new mixed-use building like Kendrick Place. Whatever happens, Pazmany said Amherst is benefiting from the trends of “in-fill” development.

“Downtowns are moving toward denser development,” Pazmany said.

Gould said her wish is to see a development compatible with other projects.

“If I had my way we’d see a great restaurant and great apartments,” Gould said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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