locally owned since 1854

Goodbye, Guido McNeal’s and hello, Hops and Barley; owners want ‘Cheers’ in Middletown

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 10/25/17

 

A new neighborhood bar is coming to Middletown — but to a very familiar place.

On Saturday, Oct. 28, Guido McNeal’s at 9 E. Main St. will mark what owner Steve Wian is …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Goodbye, Guido McNeal’s and hello, Hops and Barley; owners want ‘Cheers’ in Middletown

Posted

A new neighborhood bar is coming to Middletown — but to a very familiar place.

On Saturday, Oct. 28, Guido McNeal’s at 9 E. Main St. will mark what owner Steve Wian is calling the bar’s “last call.”

Guido McNeal’s will close for good at the end of that night — but reopen during the week of Nov. 20 as a new neighborhood bar to be known as Hops and Barley.

Hops and Barley won’t look anything like Guido McNeal’s, inside or out, Wian and his new business partner, Jason Melhorn, told the Press & Journal on Oct. 19.

The partners are spending at least $20,000 on just outside renovations, Melhorn said. The result will be “unrecognizable” compared to Guido McNeal’s now, said Wian.

“We’re looking to create a modern version of ‘Cheers,’” Melhorn said, referring to the Boston bar made famous by the TV sit-com that aired from 1982 to 1993. “We are looking to modernize the building, kind of bring it into the 21st century to create an atmosphere where everybody’s welcome — suits, construction workers, doesn’t matter, all walks of life. Give them a place to congregate, talk, and have a great experience.”

The last call promises to be a festive night of nostalgia — a chance for people to “celebrate their college years one more time, one more night,” said Wian, acknowledging the role Penn State Harrisburg students have had in supporting Guido McNeal’s in recent years. 

The Guido McNeal’s last call will also be a fundraiser for the Middletown Volunteer Fire Company. A $250 prize will go to the best Halloween costume, and Guido McNeal’s will be donating to the fire company a percentage of all revenue received after 10 p.m. Oct. 28. 

When last we heard from Wian in September 2016, he had put the business, including the liquor license, and the highly-visible property on the square up for sale for $410,000.

After 10 years of owning and operating Guido McNeal’s along with his sister and then-business partner Carol, it seemed as though Wian had had it. 

Or as Wian puts it today, “I was looking for the white horse.”

“We had some bites” from people interested in buying the business and building, but nothing came to fruition, said Wian. “The people that come to look at a building most likely have never operated something like this. You’ll hear somebody sit at the bar and say, ‘I would love to own a bar.’ Keep that dream alive, pumpkin.”

Enter Melhorn, who had known Wian for about 15 years.

“I knew that Steve’s sister was looking to get out of the business, and I was looking to get into the business, so we had a conversation and that just led to a partnership,” Melhorn said.

Wian a year ago had also indicated he had no interest in jumping on the craft beer bandwagon in Middletown and competing with the likes of The Hop Yard and Tattered Flag Brewery & Still Works.

So is this Wian deciding that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em?

Not exactly. 

The 9 E. Main St. property has been part of the tavern and hospitality scene in Middletown since at least the early 1900s, according to the Middletown Area Historical Society.

But the business has always had to change and adapt to stay current. Hops and Barley continues that evolution, Wian said.

“Everybody was upset when we bought this and made changes, but we were successful for 11 years. It’s going to be successful for another 11 years,” Wian said. “If you look around there are probably more liquor licenses in Middletown proper per capita than any other borough. I’ve never seen anything like it. But at that point you’ve got to do something to stand out, you know?”

Craft beer will be part of Hops and Barley, but Hops and Barley won’t be a brewery. It will have TVs, but it won’t be a sports bar, the partners say.

“It was the experience I had at a neighborhood bar back in Wilkes-Barre that really kind of led me to the name,” Melhorn said. “I loved going there because of the atmosphere. There was nothing fancy about it. It was a family-owned business. It just reminded me of something I would want to create, and give people the experience that I got.”

Hops and Barley will have a menu offering staples such as meat loaf, mash potatoes, pot roast, burgers, wings, salads, perogies, ribs, some grilled cheese, and stromboli.

Melhorn wants Hops and Barley to be a place where families can come, too.

Melhorn is getting married in six months. His fiancee and son will be part of Hops and Barley, so Melhorn promises to have a kids’ menu. Plus, Melhorn said his mother will be making the rounds of the place several nights a week.

“Middletown’s going to know who we are, and will get to know my family personally,” Melhorn said.

Wian made a habit of giving back to the community, with fundraisers like the one to benefit the fire company during Guido McNeal’s last call on Oct. 28.

Hops and Barley will continue that tradition, and build on it, Melhorn pledged.

“One thing I wanted to get into business for myself for was to help people. I feel very strongly about no human being should go unfed or starving. Steve and I are going to create a brand around giving back, not just receiving,” he said. “We’re going to actively go out and seek people that need help.”

“Can’t beat that,” Wian said. “Possibility and positivity.”