Eatery planned for Latrobe's Mozart Hall may open in December
A faith-based nonprofit is moving forward with plans to renovate Mozart Hall on Latrobe's Main Street and to reopen a restaurant on the historic building's first floor.
Executive Director Dawn Hennessey said Faith Forward Ministries has tentative plans to reopen the eatery in December — to provide a dining and gathering place for the community and to raise funds for the ongoing work to restore the 1890 structure.
“We feel that would be a great fit for the building and our commitment to be part of the community,” she said.
The family-friendly establishment will serve comfort food, likely for breakfast and lunch, before transforming into a coffee shop for evening patrons with the possibility of open mic nights, Hennessey said. The menu won't include pizza since there are many eateries in town where it's sold.
To operate the proposed restaurant, the organization is looking to a Ligonier couple, Carolyn and Barry Harr, who retired after running Big Pap's Restaurant in their hometown.
With volunteer labor, including that of groups from various churches and from the local Union Mission and Adelphoi Village, Faith Forward has been working for two months to renovate the main dining area after gutting it. Hennessey said the organization is restoring the original hardwood floors and tin ceiling.
“We want to take into account the integrity of the building,” she said. “We want to make sure it's done right.”
She said the group plans to retain a small section of old wallpaper it uncovered that is decorated with musical notations.
A back room eventually may be used for group meetings and rentals. Kitchen fixtures remain in place but may need to be updated. Items that remain to be squared away include new lighting and building code compliance.
Hennessey said Faith Forward is looking for photos of past times at the restaurant that it can display and would appreciate donations of drywall and other building materials.
She said work will start soon on restoring the exterior. The group is getting help with that from the nonprofit Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful organization, which this week selected the Mozart Hall project as one of eight in the state to each receive up to 10 gallons of exterior paint and painting supplies through a partnership with Behr and Home Depot.
Working with the Latrobe Community Revitalization Program, Faith Forward also received a $15,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County to help preserve and stabilize the building.
Jarod Trunzo, executive director of the revitalization program, said a contractor is expected to repoint bricks in the rear wall beginning Tuesday. Work to spruce up the facade also will occur this year, he said.
Hennessey has said the group, which operates an activity center in another first-floor space, eventually wants to restore an upstairs stage and theater.
Mozart Hall was built by George Seiler in a style influenced by German opera houses and was named for the famous composer. Numerous businesses, including a series of restaurants, occupied the first floor before the building fell into disuse. A soup kitchen that once was housed in the structure is now on the opposite side of the street.