In 'long overdue' change, New Kensington's Gunny's Lounge goes smoke-free
Patrons of Gunny’s Lounge in New Kensington will notice major changes this year, notably a lack of cigarette smoke in the air.
After decades of allowing smoking inside, owners of the longstanding restaurant and bar said they decided to ban smoking in an effort to make the establishment more family friendly. The rule took effect last week.
“When we stayed a smoking bar, I think it actually hurt our dining business because there was smoke throughout the whole building, the bar and our restaurant,” said co-owner Bob Bordonaro Jr. “We felt that by going non-smoking that we’d be able to bring the family atmosphere back, have everybody come in.”
Bordonaro said customers appear to be in favor of the new rule for the most part, and that business at the McCandless Street establishment has increased since the rule took effect.
“Overall, I’m going to say 90 percent of (the response) has been positive,” Bordonaro said.
Jim Emmerling grew up in New Kensington and has been a customer of Gunny’s for at least 20 years. Now a Steubenville resident, he comes to Gunny’s at least twice a month to get chicken wings. A smoker, Emmerling said he’s in favor of the change.
“I think it’s probably long overdue, really,” he said. “People don’t want to be around smoke.”
Larry Barber has been a manager at Gunny’s for 15 years. He isn’t a smoker and is happy smoking is no longer allowed inside.
“I love it. Customers love it. What’s not to love?” Barber said. “You don’t have to breathe that smoke, and it’s clean. There’s going to be some people that complain, but most people like the changes.”
Bars that allow smoking have become fewer and farther between over the past decade.
Pennsylvania’s Clean Indoor Air Act of 2008 has generally prohibited smoking in public places, though the state Department of Health can approve exceptions at drinking establishments if they meet certain requirements, such as not admitting anyone under 18. As of Nov. 30, the department has issued more than 1,700 exceptions at drinking establishments statewide.
In addition to the no-smoking rule, Gunny’s is undergoing renovations.
Work on the dining area began four months ago and was completed last month. A wall has been added to completely separate the dining area from the bar, and it has new tables and chairs. Each table has its own adjustable light and a USB port so people can charge their electronic devices while they eat.
Renovations in the bar area are ongoing, but should be completed by the end of the month. The plan is to add new lighting and booths so people have the option of eating in the bar if they want to.
The large football field on the bar ceiling will be covered up, but the owners plan to leave it there for good luck.
“We’re going for a cocktail lounge look,” Bordonaro said. “We feel with people coming in for dining that after eating they might want to come over and have a couple drinks.”
The menu and business hours are changing. Fresh dough pizza is being offered, and other Italian dishes such as pastas will be added by the end of the month. The pizza recipe comes from Barber, who owned Pina’s Pizza in Arnold.
The chicken wings and Gunny’s Special Sauce, which Bordonaro called the establishment’s “number one seller and number one item,” will remain.
The bar and restaurant, previously open Monday through Saturday, will now also be open regularly Sundays.
“It’s going to be a lot of dining,” Barber said.
Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Madasyn at 724-226-4702, firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter @maddyczebstrib.