The Keystone Pub & Grill is almost back.
Owner Savvas Kiprislis has not set a date for the reopening of the historic Bethlehem Township hostel at the intersection of Easton Avenue and Willow Park Road, but workers are putting the finishing touches on a renovation that took 10 months with costs approaching seven figures.
“We’ve made this old building even better than it was before,” Kiprislis said Thursday, showing off a new, expanded bar on the first floor with 32 taps. If that’s not enough, there will be extra taps for specialty beers nearby. The second floor dining room, with the front patio and new outdoor space to the side, is almost ready to go.
Changes were needed to bring the old flour mill, built in 1806 by George Butz, into the modern era, but the story lives on.
“We had two-foot-thick stone walls held together by mud and horsehair,” he said. Thomas Jefferson was president when Butz built the plant. Also in 1806, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark returned from the three-year expedition Jefferson had sent them to see the western half of North America.
The mill became a bar and was known as the Butztown Hotel until 2000 when it became the Keystone Pub. The Kiprislis management team took over in 2005. They also operate the Whitehall Keystone Pub.
Some things will not be changed. Kiprislis said the chimneys in the stone building remain the same and the big draw Wing Night will be back.
Renovating a 216-year-old building took a long time, and Kiprislis said the COVID-19 pandemic has caused more delays. At one point, half the concrete crew had the virus, then the rest got it later. The work that usually took four to six weeks took four months, but everything is falling into place now.
The new kitchen is more than twice the size of its predecessor and the bar area is now wide open. The Keystone Pub will have approximately 120 seats, as well as the new side patio. The new pub will have 25 televisions.
Change had to come, he said.
“People were worried that we were getting rid of the old bar,” Kiprislis said. “It was falling apart. The old bar got rid of itself.”
Other significant changes include moving the staircase to the second floor and the outdoor patio on the west side of the building.
The new quartz bar wraps around three sides, almost ready to serve the thousands of commuters who pass the pub daily. There will be more to come as Bethlehem Township and Bethlehem City add housing. To the west, 220 new apartments are planned on the old Bethlehem Drive-In, and further down Easton Avenue, 54 will be installed across from the Giant grocery store. To the east, 166 new homes are planned for Farmersville Road.
The pub closed for works on June 1 last year, and as renovations dragged on, Kiprislis said misinformation had crept into social media but the plan was still moving forward. The job required a lot of cooperation with the local government, and this part of the job went well.
“Bethlehem Township have always been great with us,” he said.
The new Keystone Pub & Grill is hiring and will have 30 to 40 employees, Kiprislis said. After a “soft opening” to test the new layout and systems, the bar will open to the public very soon. See the pub’s social media for the date.