Discovery Channel series documents hunt for Kittanning bar location
Inside the tan brick and wood building near Kittanning that once housed Horse Trough, three first-time bar owners have been slowly renovating the structure into their dream bar.
Sidebar, on Clearfield Pike in Rayburn Township, is billed by its owners as “the ultimate dive bar” and a thriving, intimate music venue.
The bar will be featured on an upcoming episode of the new Discovery Channel series “Bar Hunters.” The show profiles first-time owners as host Tom Powers, a Chicago restaurateur and consultant, shows them potential locations and gives them the pros and cons of opening their business in each.
“I think my primary function is to provide perspective,” said Powers, who opened his first restaurant in the early 1990s. “They have an idea; they have a concept. In some ways, I want to challenge how tied they are to the concept.”
Sidebar's co-owners worked in and around bars but hadn't owned one. Steve Craven, 44, of Ford City managed Pastimes in Manor Township, where Eric Hack, 42, of Kittanning tended bar. Jennifer Heymers, 35, managed a bar in California before she moved to Pennsylvania and began dating Craven.
“We were all friends first,” Hack said. “We're like-minded. Steve's like our grumpy dad, and Jen and I are like the two kids playing around.”
Craven said he'd been looking to buy a bar for a few years, but “Bar Hunters” put it into motion. The trio filmed their episode in early September, when they also looked at the Carino's building in Vandergrift and My Buddy's Place in Avonmore, he said.
Filming made for long days, often 14 hours, but the three said they felt at ease with the film crew from Philadelphia-based ShootersTV, a production company specializing in reality shows.
“Tom was awesome. He knows his (stuff),” Heymers said.
Powers said financing and location are two vital pieces of running any successful bar. Buying a space that's too large or expensive can leave owners with little cash on hand for renovations and surviving the lean beginning months of trying to get the business off the ground.
But he said other qualities are important.
“What I look for more than anything is, do you have a passion for this, humility, and are you willing to work hard,” Power said. “These guys have all of that.”
Hack said the former Horse Trough building was in disrepair and filled with junk when they bought it. They filled about six industrial-sized trash containers while emptying out two front rooms they converted into The Rack Room. The space — tiled walls, purple carpet and black and white framed pin-up photos — now houses a pool table, electronic dart board and other games.
Other renovations have included new wiring and ductwork, replacing floors and ceilings, and moving the bar from the end of the building to a side wall closer to the door in the main room. A small stage for bands to perform was built in the back.
“This is a little more intimate,” Heymers said. “When you walk in, you want to stay. It feels like something's going on.”
As the team renovates the kitchen area, they hope to expand from wings and fried bar fare to a more extensive menu, Craven said.
The bar will host a “watch party” when their episode airs, but a date and time have not been set.
Kari Andren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2856 or firstname.lastname@example.org.