Mt. Lebanon's Korner Pub becomes place for beer lovers

Matthew Santoni
| Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Three high school chums from Mt. Lebanon have purchased and renovated the Korner Pub on Bower Hill Road, hoping to turn the hangout of their younger days into a destination for craft beer lovers.

“This was a dive, a smoky, old-man bar for years,” said Brandon Smith, 32, one of the three men who great up in Mt. Lebanon, plus one girlfriend, who bought the bar in January. “We used to come up here and drink beers and hang out all the time.”

Together, the new owners have years of experience working in bars and restaurants: Smith managed Fuel and Fuddle in Oakland for 10 years; Greg Ripper managed and then bought the Keystone Cafe at the Pittsburgh Technology Center; Robb Full and his girlfriend, Melissa Whittier, had been working at the Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery in Boulder, Colo.

“There are no real, dedicated craft beer bars around here,” Smith said. “We're in a good location because there's nothing else like this right here, and it allows us to be close to people walking from both Mt. Lebanon and Dormont.”

The pub's liquor license only allows them to serve beer, but Smith said he wants to keep a constantly-rotating selection of good craft beers on tap.

Mt. Lebanon, he noted, has proven to be a strong supporter of craft beer, with yearly events such as the Brew Fest and Winterfest in the nearby Uptown business district exclusively offering local and craft brews.

“They've done a phenomenal job in a very short time...,” said Eric Milliron, Mt. Lebanon's Commercial Districts manager. “There's a big demand, not just in Mt. Lebanon but everywhere these days. There's clearly a market for it here.”

With little parking directly outside the bar, about 80 percent of the clientele are walk-ins.

“I live just a couple blocks away now,” said Smith, who moved to Mt. Lebanon with his wife from Forest Hills in December. “I haven't moved my car in two weeks.”

While the new owners declined to say how much they paid, Smith said the first order of business after the purchase was complete was to clean out the bar.

After starting as a deli in the 1950s, the bar was expanded to its current space in the 1970s. Decades of allowing smoking had blackened ceiling tiles and left the windows dingy. The ashtrays and cigarette vending machine were tossed.

“It's 2014. I don't smoke in my house, I don't smoke in my car, and I don't smoke in my bar,” he said. “It was an easy decision to make, especially with a younger crowd.”

The new owners quickly turned the place around for reopening, brightening the bar with fresh paint. They tore down window blinds and pulled out a divider between the bar area and a pool room. A new tap system was installed beneath the original bar, new TVs were set up on either end of the bar, and chalkboards went up to list beers on tap and in bottles.

“We bought it on a Wednesday and opened on Monday,” said Ripper, 33, of Scott.

Smith said he'd like to reopen the deli to serve snacks and sandwiches but the bar doesn't have vents and plumbing for a full grill or fryer. For now, the bar allows patrons to bring food or order delivery if they like.

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