Photographed by Carla Witt Ford
Upheaval at WVU has made for an anxious summer and fall across Morgantown. Times like these, our longtime neighborhood bars—the seasoned suds sanctuaries where we’ve cheered our teams on and lamented mine layoffs and factory closures together over the decades—are reliable sources of commiseration and community. Cheers to our familiar frothspots and the dedicated bar owners who keep the beer flowing year after year.
An Homage to Morgantown’s Longtime Neighborhood Bars
Classic’s Restaurant, Pub & Hot Spot
Opened in 1990
The price of beer is down at Classic’s Restaurant, Pub & Hot Spot in Sabraton.
You read that right. “Our new beer prices are lower,” Lou Scotchel says. “A little higher than they were at happy hour, but lower than the regular price. We just came out with all-day low prices so the blue-collar worker can still afford to come out.” It’s a show of support by owners Lou and Kathy Scotchel and family for the neighborhood folks who have kept them in business for over 30 years.
But the Scotchels have been on the Morgantown bar scene longer than that. They bought the Old Gold and Blue bar and restaurant at #1 Beechurst Avenue in 1983—“Where Dad Met His Girl,” the sign in the window read, a play on “Where Dad Took His Girl” at Comuntzis restaurant on High Street. Scotchel befriended the West Virginia Universiity football team, and older townies will remember when Mountaineers like Robbie Bennett, Jeff Hostetler, and Rich Rodriguez hung out there with fans. The Scotchels moved their popular spot to Westover, then to South University, then bought this place in Sabraton and opened in 1990 as Classic’s, a breakfast, lunch, and dinner restaurant with a bar upstairs and an enviable collection of Mountaineer memorabilia on the walls.
Classic’s is a proud mom and pop spot. “My wife and I worked this restaurant from the beginning,” Scotchel says. The kids chipped in in their teens washing dishes and waiting tables, and it became a popular hangout. Scotchel remembers when the plant manager at the Sterling Faucet factory in Sabraton, Mr. Rogers, and a lot of the
workers would drop by for lunch or hang out in the bar after work—and he remembers the effect on customers and eventual loss of business through the layoffs and plant closure in the mid-’90s.
Firm believers in doing unto others, the Scotchels have kept prices reasonable for customers through all of the ups and downs. They’ve supported their fellow mom and pops, too. During the crippling COVID restrictions on bars and restaurants, the family made it a point to order lunch from places like Ruby and Ketchy’s at Cheat Lake, HomeGrown Pizza in Dellslow, and Scorers in Westover. “We did that every day of the week,” Scotchel says. “And then they started ordering off of us to help us keep our doors open. It went above and beyond—we did more business during COVID just in take-out than we did in total before COVID.”
The Mountaineer memorabilia came down during COVID for a paint job and hasn’t gone back up, Scotchel says. But Classic’s doesn’t need that enticement—it’s one of those rare places where you can still get a satisfying lunch for under $10 and a full dinner under $20. The kitchen is especially known for its wings and burgers. Upstairs, three friendly bartenders staff the lounge, which offers service from the restaurant menu as well as domestic, imported, and craft brews plus a full bar.
Years of goodwill in the community have earned Classic’s a loyal following—maybe 95% of their customers are regulars, Scotchel guesses. The welcome is warm for one and all: If it’s your first visit, he or his wife will be sure to stop and say hello. “Most people call her Mama Scotchel and call me Papa Lou,” he chuckles. You’re invited to do the same.
1384 Green Bag Road, “Classic’s Restaurant” on FB
Gibbie’s Pub & Eatery
Opened in 1987
You might not think of a downtown bar as a community spot—but just a few minutes in Gibbie’s Pub & Eatery on High Street will change your mind about that. The many chance meetings between friends and the easy camaraderie among the bartenders and customers are sure signs of a spot locals love.
Mike “Gibbie” Gainer grew up in Kingwood and earned two degrees in mechanical engineering at WVU. He liked solving puzzles and doing things for himself—and what bigger real-world puzzle is there than running a business? When Zack Morgan’s, an upscale seafood restaurant on High Street, went up for bankruptcy sale, Gainer put in a bid. It turned out, he won it.
That was in 1987.
A century ago, Gibbie’s main room was Comuntzis restaurant—“Where Dad Took His Girl”—and the classy Art Deco Carrara glass storefront dates to the Comuntzis period. The comfortable space had several other lives after that. “Everything in here, it’s original to the 1920s, when the building was built,” Gainer says. “Except the bar—the Zack Morgan’s people got that out of a hardware store in Mannington. It’s probably 140 or 150 years old.”
Of all of the bar owners in this story, Gainer is the earliest founder still running his own place. He remembers suffering with customers through recessions in the ’90s and the aughts. “This would be the third one I’m going through.” He remembers the series of Consol mine closures that hit customers hard, too.
While the interior is vintage, one of the most noticeable changes at Gibbie’s has been outdoors: the addition in 2021 of sidewalk dining, a happy result of regulatory accommodations to help bars and restaurants rebound from COVID. “That changed our whole outside look,” Gainer says. “People come by and see the tables and say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you served food’—our food sales have probably tripled since that went in. Now when you walk by, you go, ‘Oh, I’ll sit out here and eat and relax,’ three seasons, almost four seasons a year.”
Gibbie’s big restaurant menu boasts hand-cut fries, wings that are baked before frying, and fresh burgers cooked to order, with vegetarian burger alternatives. The fried pepperoni rolls are a hit with customers, and bartender Jillian Kelly is a fan of the steak salad and the chili. The bar offers a decision-confounding 46 taps: a few big-brewhouse standards along with many local and West Virginia brews, some national craft beers, and several hard ciders—and many of the beer styles can be had non-alcoholic. Not in the mood for beer? There’s also a full bar, and Saturday and Sunday brunch includes bloody mary, mimosa, and frozen drink specials.
Great beer and food keep customers coming, and a busy event calendar helps, too—trivia, karaoke, open mics, and live bands on weekends. A thoughtfully designed media system allows staff to to control video screens and audio levels individually in various spaces, making Gibbie’s a good spot for study groups, business meetings, fans of any sports team, and more.
Staff are happy at Gibbie’s—the core staff has been on for 10-plus years, Gainer says. The customer base likes it, too. He guesses 50% or 60% are regulars when school is in session and up to 80% at other times of the year. It just goes to show that a well-run downtown bar can become its own community.
368 High Street, gibbies.com
Opened in 1983
Jeff Morrison started going to Crockett’s Lodge in Star City when he was a senior at WVU, in 1989. It wasn’t the most convenient drinking spot to his fraternity, but he liked the atmosphere, and he’d catch a ride whenever someone was making the drive.
Crockett’s was still pretty new then. It was started by Charlie Kosten and Chip Malone in 1983, inspired by the beach bar scene in Kosten’s native Cape May, New Jersey, but with a frontier theme that Morrison thinks aimed to evoke the WVU Mountaineer without infringing on trademark. A 40-foot cherry bar made locally by hand and a funky collection of memorabilia on the walls—including a piece of the goal post from when fans rushed the field after a 17–14 win against Penn State in 1984—gave the place a warm local appeal, and it quickly established a following.
Decades later, when Morrison was working for a vending company that had pool tables and a jukebox at Crockett’s, Malone told him they were thinking of selling. He knew right away he wanted it. It took Linda, wife of the late Charlie Kosten, a while to be sure she was ready to part with it. “I was trout fishing near Seneca Rocks and got up on a high point,” Morrison recalls. “My phone beeped out some messages, and one of ’em was from her. She said she’d finally made up her mind to sell. I didn’t even fish anymore—I just came straight back to town.” He bought his old college haunt in 2014 with business partner Erik Buzzard.
Business had dipped since Kosten passed on in 2010, but the new owners made some improvements, added more taps, and advertised, and it soon bounced back to the vibrant relaxation and celebration spot locals had long loved. The main woe Morrison remembers Crockett’s regulars commiserating over in his time as owner was the layoffs, then closure of nearby Mylan Pharmaceuticals. “We had a lot of customers from there,” he says. “They used to hold their office and Christmas parties here.”
Conveniently located on the main drag in Star City, Crockett’s has a welcoming mix of booths and high tops across several rooms as well as a game room and a covered deck. It attracts everyone from townies to older students to alumni, with some regulars dating back to the ’80s. Its 16 taps span national standards and West Virginia craft brews, and the menu offers up a tried-and-true mix of fried appetizers, wings, burgers, quesadillas, and other bar food—plus a popular Sunday brunch.
Asked his views on the value of a neighborhood bar, Morrison refers to the Paramount Network TV series Bar Rescue with food and beverage industry consultant Jon Taffer. “He talked about, people have three places they hang out: home, work, and their watering holes. There’s some people that spend all their waking hours at one of those three spots. Just as long as it’s a safe atmosphere, and friendly, I think it fills that need for a lot of people.”
Crockett’s has been doing exactly that for 40 years—an anniversary it celebrated in August this year.
3395 University Avenue, @crockettslodge on FB
Town Hill Tavern
A 1935 filling station and grocery store that added a bar in the 1950s
When Shannon Schetzner suggested to Julie Thalman in 2008 that she and her husband should buy his Town Hill bar from him, she was 100% all in. When he talked to her husband, “I was a 100% hard no,” Mark Thalman laughs. “But he said, ‘Too late—I already asked your wife!’” This is the Thalman’s 15th year juggling ownership of a cozy Woodburn institution with full-time jobs—his in the city fire department, hers in the provost’s office at WVU.
Town Hill dates back to the 1950s as a bar, but decades further if you’re not too technical about it. Back in the ’30s and ’40s, Town Hill service station was the last stop for gas and provisions on the way out to Cheat Lake, and the signs out front advertised “Fresh Meats and Groceries” and “Beer.” It was also the neighborhood hangout. “A lot of the glass workers lived here in Woodburn, and everybody would gather, stand around, and drink beer,” Thalman says. “So they decided in the ’50s to put in a bar along with the grocery store. They also served hot dogs and pepperoni rolls out of a serving window to the kids at University High School, when it had an open campus.”
As at any corner pub, Town Hill regulars solve Morgantown’s woes through bar banter. The WVU Mountaineers’ gut-wrenching 2007 loss to Pitt in the Backyard Brawl and coach Rich Rodriguez’s sudden departure were still favorite grouses when the Thalmans took over in 2008 and for years after. The layoffs of hundreds of employees at the former Mylan Pharmaceuticals, just a few miles up the road, in 2017 and 2018 and the loss of more than 1,400 jobs when it closed for good in 2021 made for true sorrows to be drowned.
These days, THT draws construction workers and retired firemen during the day and, in the evening, students and Woodburn locals. Thalman guesses more than 80% are regulars. “Many of our customers grew up in the neighborhood or still live here, and some have been coming here since the 1950s,” he says. “I can quite honestly set my watch to most of the day regulars—if they’re not here, I start worrying. But we always welcome new faces, too.”
THT has kept its best traditions intact. The bar started claiming the best chili dogs in town back in the ’50s, and the house-made chili keeps them coming out of the kitchen today, although these days there are also pepperoni rolls, steak sandwiches, hamburgers and cheeseburgers, quesadillas, and more on the menu. The tap list has a traditional working-class feel to it—Budweiser, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Yuengling, and several domestic lights—with the local favorite Halleck Pale Ale and maybe one other option for the craft beer lovers. And Town Hill is proud home to a unique townie tradition: the Morgantown Martini, a PBR garnished with a pickle spear.
Another part of Town Hill’s throwback charm is its cash-only policy—ATM on-site. But the best part is the genuine old-fashioned welcome of it all. “If I don’t know your name when you come in the door, I try to know it when you leave,” Thalman says, and that’s true of the Thalmans’ bartenders, too. “That’s what we do here.”
998 Willey Street, @townhilltavern on FB
Opened in 1950
You know a neighborhood pub has earned its place in locals’ hearts and schedules when it doesn’t even have to have a sign out front. That’s true of the original location of Mario’s Fishbowl, which identifies itself as Richwood Ave. Confectionery—only the “Beer On Tap”
sign tells first-timers this little concrete block hut may not be the ice cream shop the name implies.
Mario’s has been a favorite Woodburn watering hole since Rose and Mario Spina bought the Richwood Avenue confectionery / grocery store / lunch counter in 1963. They served beer in the confectionery’s heavy, Morgantown-made Weiss goblets and dubbed them “fishbowls,” and a Morgantown icon was born. The fishbowl was an instant hit—the oldest of the thousands of overlapping handwritten customer notes taped to the walls date to the ’60s.
An anecdote gives us some of the character of Mario’s in those earlier days. To keep his customers safe, Mario Spina would stick each drinker’s driver’s license and car key between random pages of a dictionary and give the customer a word from those pages to remember, according to a 2017 post by a blogger who interviewed then-employee Kim Zweibaum. If the customer later couldn’t remember the word, he’d have to find another way home.
The Spinas turned the bar over to Mark and Karen Furfari in 1997. The Furfaris renovated the kitchen, updated the draft beer system, added a large patio, and opened a second location in Suncrest. And in 2017 they sold to a group of five longtime employees, Zweibaum included, all of whom are still working owners today.
The customer base has changed since Zweibaum started working at Mario’s when she was a student 16 years ago, she says. “A lot of them are the kids that were my age in college that still live here now and have families,” she says. “So it’s not like your downtown club—it’s a lot more family-oriented. We still get the college kids, but we get a lot of families that have grown up loving the Fishbowl.” A lot of alumni and visitors drop by on home game weekends, too. She figures 75% of customers are regulars, and she gives a shout out to the many regulars whose takeout orders got their beloved neighborhood hangout through the COVID-19 shutdowns.
Mario’s rotates about a third of its 16 taps, with several reserved for West Virginia craft brews. Everything on the pub menu is made to order in-house. The burger and chili cheesesteak are popular, Zweibaum says, and Mario’s Best of Morgantown–winning wings are top sellers—sauce options for those are many, but the customer favorite is the
The Furfaris performed a bit of barkeep magic when they opened their second location, in Suncrest. Although it’s only been open since 2012, it has the comfortable patina of a much-visited and -loved neighborhood spot.
Mario’s celebrated 73 years in June. Asked what gives it its staying power, Zweibaum riffs on the nostalgia. “People love history. They love going to a place that’s been around a while,” she says. “I know that’s what I look for if I go to a different town: I like to go to a place that’s been open a long time, a place the locals know about—a place the regulars love.” She and her co-owners are the lucky stewards of exactly that for Morgantown.
704 Richwood Avenue, 3117 University Avenue, mariosfishbowl.com
Opened in 1949
At least a couple of Morgantown’s longtime corner pubs are outside commercial zones and truly embedded in their neighborhoods. Mundy’s Place in First Ward is one. “If this place ever lost its alcohol license, nobody could ever get another one here,” says owner Vinnie Romano. “There’s a church right across the street, but this was grandfathered in.”
That may in part explain the long series of owners at Mundy’s: at least 10 since Mundy Liberatore opened it in 1949, if the general view is correct, and several just in the past decade. It seems the lovers of Morgantown’s well-worn watering holes have an unspoken agreement to keep the place open—when one owner is ready to move on, another steps up.
The previous two owners of Mundy’s are well-known on the Morgantown bar scene: Jay Redmond of the former Jay’s Getaway, which became Apothecary Ale House, then business partners Keith Summers and Mark Thalman—Thalman owns Town Hill Tavern across town. Romano worked for Summers and Thalman and, when they decided to sell in 2022, the timing was right for him to take it on. “It was time to own,” he says. “You can only move up so far in the service industry—if you want to do something with it, you’re going have to run your own place eventually.”
What Romano has done with it so far is to add to the event calendar, with positive results. Mundy’s has continued hosting the annual August Run to Mundy’s fundraiser for Monongalia County Special Olympics, which started under the previous owners. “This was our second year of doing it, and every year it gets bigger,” Romano says. Year ’round, there’s now live music most Fridays plus occasional comedy nights.
And there’s more. Liberatore was a participant in and sponsor of both slo-pitch softball and bowling teams. Channeling his spirit, Mundy’s today sponsors a softball team, and Romano and his brother Tony Romano, who works with him behind the bar—we hear he might do a magic trick for you, if you ask nicely—both play on it. Romano also started Mondays at Mundy’s with WVU Baseball, which are popular customer hangouts with Coach Randy Mazey and players and a part of Country Roads Trust’s Million Dollar May fundraiser.
Most of Mundy’s customers are local to First Ward. With ballfields and the ice arena nearby, the bar is also a natural after-practice gathering spot for kickballers, hockey players, and more. Romano guesses at least 75% are regulars, and the brothers pride themselves on knowing their names and, for many, their drinks, too.
Twelve taps include domestics and some local and seasonal brews, with bottles and cans that include seltzers and smoothie beers and a small selection of liquor rounding out the drink options. Summers and Thalman installed a kitchen downstairs, so these days Mundy’s offers pub menu pleasures like fresh-cut fries, a steak hoagie, and a reuben—the hot dogs, burgers, wings, and quesadillas are especially popular. And Fridays during Lent, you can get fish from the famous Coleman’s Fish Market in Wheeling.
Mundy’s seems to have found a longtime steward in Romano—he says he plans to stick around. And while he and the previous owners have made some changes over the years, the First-Ward vibe remains—if Liberatore himself were to walk in, he’d probably feel right at home.
669 Madigan Avenue, @mundysplace on FB
Gene’s Beer Garden
When Al Bonner first owned Gene’s back in the late ’80s, he’d open at 8 a.m. for the retired guys. “The people that I grew up with, it was their fathers,” he says. “They’d come in, eight or 10 of them, and have a couple beers and be on their way.”
Gene’s was already the neighborhood hangout when Bonner attended Second Ward grade school across the street in the ’60s. Gene Perilli opened it in 1944 so his brothers, Joe and Frank, would have a place to work when they came home from the war. “Once in a while a teacher would send us down to get them something for lunch—usually a hot dog, something to drink, and a pack of cigarettes.” All through his childhood and young adult life, when the Mountaineers played at Old Mountaineer Field on WVU’s downtown campus, people would line up out the door of Gene’s and up the street to get hot dogs and walk the mile to the game.
Bonner graduated from Morgantown High in 1974, attended WVU, then went to work in the mines. “All the coal miners would come over here after they got off the midnight shift and have a few beers.” The idea of being the one who could offer folks that kind of hangout appealed to him. He told Frank Perilli he’d love to buy the place when Perilli decided to retire. Perilli would just laugh. “But finally one day he said, ‘OK, I want to sell it.’” That was in 1985.
Back then there was one TV set, where the stage is now. “And there were three beers on tap: Busch, Busch, and Busch. One keg run out, they’d start pouring the next one.” After a while, Bonner added Budweiser and Bud Light.
The biggest change was the addition of live music. Singer–songwriter Owen Davis asked if he could play at the bar, and Bonner set him up in the back room with the pinball and video games. “One night, one of the guys was sitting up on one of the pinball machines, and he went right through the glass,” he laughs. “So I thought, we’re going to have to do something different.” The stage, added in the early 2000s, was a quick success. “I’ve had musicians from California, Seattle, all over.”
Around that same time, Bonner became part of the larger Morgantown story of bar owners stepping in to keep the lights on at our oldest neighborhood taprooms. Then–Town Hill owner George Raddish was ready to get out of the business and, roundabout, Bonner took the place off his hands. He did some renovations—and eventually sold it to Gene’s employee Shannon Schetzner, who years later sold it to the current owners.
Bonner remembers hard times customers have been through. “When the coal mines would go on strike, that was always a big thing,” he says. “Or when the miners would be laid off for a while, they’d come in to hang out with friends and commiserate over a beer.” Old Mountaineer Field had already closed before Bonner bought Gene’s, but it was a sad day for everyone, he says, when it was demolished in 1987. He also remembers the somber days after the events of September 11, 2001.
These days, Bonner figures at least half of his customers are regulars. His beer list reflects the working class–older student mix that cycles through: A can of Black Label can be had for a dollar, and Halleck Pale Ale from Chestnut Brew Works down the street is the top-selling craft beer. The mixed crowd gets along just fine—although the longtime Irish bartender doubles as bouncer when she needs to. “She’ll get right in your face if you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing. They respect her and love her accent, and it makes their day when they get cussed at by Lucy.” As for food, hot dogs are still a draw, most often ordered with chili. Bonner, who’s eaten many thousands over the years, suggests they may be the secret to life. “I don’t have high blood pressure,” he says. “I don’t have diabetes.”
Thirty-eight years in, Bonner may be the granddaddy of Morgantown barkeeps, but he deflects appreciation. “All I’ve done is keep the lights on and the beer flowing,” he says. “But if I could have hand-picked my customers, I don’t think I could have done any better. They’re just good people. They bring their friends. The bartenders are friendly and take care of people, and that’s what people want—they just want to come to a place where they’re comfortable, don’t have to look over their shoulder, can get up and go to the bathroom and leave their money on the bar and don’t have to worry about it.”
Lately, what went around has been coming around. “There’s a lot of people acting like I used to—‘If you ever want to retire, I would love to buy it.’ I can appreciate that. People like the place and want it to continue.”
461 Wilson Avenue, genesbeergarden.com