NEW WILMINGTON – The Tavern on the Square has a history dating back nearly 90 years as a restaurant serving the New Wilmington community.
Whether that tradition continues remains to be seen.
The restaurant, at the corner of Market Street and Neshannock Avenue, is closing Oct. 3.
“COVID is a tragedy in our country and in our community,” owner Todd Ulicny said. “While we are fortunate that illness and death have not affected our family, we are losing a restaurant.”
The Tavern’s closure marks the second Lawrence County restaurant to shut its doors. Tuscany Square Ristorante in Neshannock Township, north of New Castle, closed its Wilmington Road location on Aug. 31, a month shy of 19 years in operation. That restaurant plans on reopening elsewhere in the county at a smaller location.
The Tavern opened in 1931 in the structure that was built in 1849. Known for its famous Amish sticky buns, the family restaurant was taken over in March 2018 by Ulicny and his wife, Alma. Ulicny said the couple hasn't determined whether they would put the business up for sale.
“I was disappointed to hear the news,” New Wilmington Mayor Sherie Babb said. “I’m sad and heartbroken that the Tavern is closing their doors.”
Babb noted the struggles of running a restaurant during times when capacity levels have been reduced to 25 or 50 percent.
“It’s just too hard to make a living and pay employees and pay all the bills that go toward running a restaurant,” Babb said. “I just hate to see a nice business like that close down.”
Ulicny, after purchasing the Tavern from Joe and Sue Hougelman, led a fight to change a borough ordinance that banned alcohol sales. Similar voter referendum efforts failed in 2003, 2007 and 2015, but passed in 2019. The Tavern holds the borough’s lone liquor license.
As businesses close across the country due to lost revenue from the pandemic, restaurants, bars and nightclubs have been especially hit hard. Ulicny urged people to continue to support their local independent businesses.
“They are not OK, and many more will suffer the same fate as us,” he said.