Jul. 24—SCRANTON — The former heart of Tripp Park will soon beat again.
The building of the former Farr Street Tavern at 1601 Farr St. in the Tripp Park neighborhood of West Scranton is under total renovation by its new owner, John Basalyga.
He said he hopes to have the overhaul completed around late September or October, with a new bar/restaurant on the first floor and a pair of two-bedroom apartments on the second and third floors.
The name of the establishment will remain Farr Street Tavern, because the former bar was a popular neighborhood mainstay for decades, he said.
"It's iconic," Basalyga said of the former tavern. "I think the name is solid. It's a good name."
Nicole Turi of Perfections Hair Salon, 1524 Farr St., which is diagonally across from the former tavern, said she and other neighbors have watched the renovation progress and eagerly await the outcome.
"We can't wait because it was always a little bar with good food and I think the neighborhood misses that," Turi said.
The tavern has been closed for at least the past few years, but previously had long been a neighborhood focal point.
A September 2000 Times-Tribune article about prior longtime owner Ben Colarossi selling the bar after 36 years described the Farr Street Tavern as the heart of the neighborhood, with the beat supplied by Colarossi and his brother, Frank.
Also previously known as The Farr, or Benny's to close customers, the tavern had a three-sided bar, high tables along walls and tables in a back room. It was renowned as a local pub where people from all walks of life gathered and as a must-stop for politicians. Many considered the tavern as the City Hall of Tripp Park, where neighborhood problems were aired and ideas for improvements were hatched.
As the bar business changed, Colarossi expanded the food menu and gained a reputation for quality burgers, wings and wieners. The tavern also fielded many sports teams, including modified and slow-pitch softball, golf, bowling, basketball and even skiing.
The bar had a few other owners after Colarossi.
In October 2018, Basalyga's realty firm, JBAS Realty, bought the tavern building and a vacant lot with a garage across North Rebecca Avenue.
Before that, Basalyga initially only bought the tavern's liquor license, to move it to the Marketplace at Steamtown. He bought that former Mall at Steamtown in an auction in 2015, renamed it and has since brought in nontraditional mall tenants. Early on, he planned to open a restaurant/bar called Londyn's Tap House & Grill, in the former Ground Round spot in the mall on Lackawanna Avenue, and use the Farr Street Tavern liquor license there.
But he switched gears a few years ago to have Geisinger move into the Marketplace, where the health system intends to grow orthopedic and sports medicine service lines. In 2019, Geisinger unveiled plans to take over several mall spaces, including the former Ground Round spot. Interior work for a new Geisinger center at the mall continues. It will fill about 83,000 square feet on two floors, with street-level access along Lackawanna Avenue.
"That's why I stopped (the Londyn's plan). Geisinger is more important to the (financial) health of the mall than a restaurant," Basalyga said.
With a liquor license in hand, he looked into buying the Farr Street Tavern building. By that time, it had already been under a tentative contract with another potential buyer. That sale fell through and the bank involved in the ownership asked if he was still interested, and Basalyga then bought it.
"The building was really in poor shape," he said. "Initially, I didn't want the building."
It took some time to get renovations underway, but recently it's been full-steam ahead.
Basalyga has gutted the interior and removed exterior wall coverings down to underlying wood planks. He demolished a front, first-floor section, stabilized and strengthened the balloon-frame building with steel beams. He will rebuild the front portion, and plans to have two outdoor patios. The second and third floors will contain two side-by-side apartments, with each having about 1,000 square feet.
He estimates the cost of buying the Farr Street properties and renovating the tavern building at around $350,000.
"It's going to be a great little corner bar and two apartments," Basalyga said.
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