One of my favorite things to do is to explore the streets of Buffalo that I’m not overly familiar with. I never know what I’m going to come across, but one thing is for sure – in just about every neighborhood, there is a shuttered old pub or tavern that screams to be rediscovered. I always wonder what’s inside – is the bar intact? Has it been converted to residential? What’s the story?
Every once in a while, one of these old taverns is rejuvenated, thankfully. Such is the case with Turning Bridge Tavern at 1797 Niagara Street, which is scheduled to open spring of 2020.
Shortly after hearing about the tavern, which is in the process of being resuscitated, I ran into district councilman Joe Golombek who shed some light on the project. He told me that when it comes to these types of neighborhood investments, this is where he shines. While the Rocco Terminis are busy transforming entire streets, and the Office of Strategic Planning is spurring on large projects, we must never lose sight that each independent business, or restored building, is a win for Buffalo.
Golombek also told me that he has been intimate with the tavern project since the start. “I was the one that steered Joe and Maureen Jacobi into purchasing the building,” Golombek told me. “Joe had been my salesman at Riverside Men’s Shop, though he told me that some day he wanted to open a pub. Around 6 years ago, the couple was living across from The Zoo. I introduced them to the building at 1797 Niagara Street, they liked it, and they sold their house and moved into the second floor. Downstairs was an old bar that had been around, in different forms, for over a century. When I was young, it was called Babe and Tess’s, then Mcnally’s, and then Mixers. Mixers closed around ten years ago.”
Turning Bridge Tavern is located directly across the street from Unity Island, which features a steel deck rolling bascule bridge that does indeed turn.
According to Golombek, the first two years of owning the tavern building was a rough time – the neighborhood was still down and out for the most part, and there were some bad elements to contend with. At the same time, there was a light at the end of the tunnel, so it’s great to see that the Jacobi’s hung in there. For the most part, the building was intact and only needed cosmetic work. Plus, Niagara Street began to see some very positive results in the form of new businesses, new parks, and news of new infrastructure along Niagara Street (including dedicated bike lanes).
Once open, Turning Bridge Tavern will have a wonderful horseshoe shaped bar – the kind that proliferated in Buffalo at the turn of the century. The idea is for the tavern to become a welcoming neighborhood haunt, serving up cold brews, and soups and sandwiches for lunch and dinner. This will also be the sort of place where you just might get to hear some live folk and polka music on the weekends – you know, the type of place that we all want to support, but there just aren’t enough establishments of this nature still in operation these days. But thanks to the Jacobi’s, were going to see the resurrection of a tavern that might not have otherwise seen the light of day. One thing is for sure, this is another win for Black Rock, a part of the city that continues to surprise and impress.