Following more than a year of renovations, the Presidents Pub is open for lunch, dinner, drinks and glimpses of local history at 88 N. Main St., where the Ernie’s Freestyle bar previously operated.
Presidents Pub opened to the public on December 21, 2015. The Kennison family came to a quick consensus on the name. “We want to pull the college as a whole to Main Street,” Mark Kennison Jr. said, referring to Washington & Jefferson, home of the Presidents – his alma mater two blocks to the east.
The ground floor is spacious – 3,500 square feet with seating for 110 – and features seven large-screen TVs and a bar that is seemingly the length of a bowling lane. The top is concrete, and the wooden edges are seamlessly connected picture frames from the old Evans Studio.
There are 24 taps dispensing mostly craft beers, but there also are bottled and canned brews, and drink selections that don’t have a foamy head. Beverage director Steve Kowalczuk assures these will not be the standard mixed drinks of today.
“Our focus is on pre-Prohibition-style cocktails, the purest way to make cocktails. The focus will be more on spirits and will be less sweet,” he said.
Sandwiches dominate the lunch menu, and five entrees are available for dinner – for now. Mark Jr. eventually would like to implement seasonal food and drink menus.
Sunday brunch will be accompanied by live jazz from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mark Jr. said the pub is partnering with Washington Jazz Society on that endeavor, which began this past weekend.
Patio plans include a garden-like green space, privacy fences, fire pits, gas lanterns, ivy-covered walls and seating for 70. A decorative waterfall already exists. There is plenty of metered parking behind the building.
“There’s really no place to eat outside in the city,” Mark Sr. said, adding that landscaping still has to be done. He said the patio should be completed in the spring.
The family purchased the building in April 2014 before beginning the lengthy overhaul. They also have bought a two-story structure next door, where they plan to have an open balcony, wine bar and “at least” four apartments on top, and a cigar shop at the bottom.
Mark Jr. likely will be wielding a hammer and paint brush there, too. He has done a lot of the labor at all of the family’s projects downtown.
This is their fourth in the Main Street business district, but first on North Main, where there has been a greater need for renewal. Mark Jr., a Trinity High alumnus, refurbished and launched Upper Crust restaurant at the corner of South Main and West Maiden Street, then a few doors down Main, opened a coffee shop and an Italian store in an adjacent space. He sold all three, the coffee shop and Italian store becoming Chicco Baccello.
“Mark is doing his best to build up Main Street,” his father said. “That is his only focus. This is our hometown. We’re trying to do our part.”