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Makeover helps Glen Park Tavern celebrate its 125th anniversary

Glen Park Tavern, one of the oldest social hangouts in Williamsville, is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a new sign, menu makeover and planned interior redecoration that does proper justice to its historic roots.

There's even a friendly nod to the tavern ghost, though whispers about lusty upstairs activity in days gone by didn't make it into the new menu's brief restaurant history.

Glen Park Tavern is one of only 40 restaurants in the state registered as taverns. Only Glen Park Tavern and the Eagle House currently operate with that designation in Williamsville, according to Ellie Grenauer, one of the owners.

The pale yellow pub and eatery at 5507 Main St. occupies a nice spot along the village's commercial corridor, but is easily missed by passing traffic.

"We saw a little bit of a decline in sales last year, and we were concerned," said Grenauer, who runs the restaurant with her father, Jim, and cousin Chris Robshaw.

They turned to the Williamsville Business Association and restaurant marketing consultant Nancy Turgeon for help. It was Turgeon who determined that the restaurant had an identity crisis.

The tavern was formerly Judge Kane's Red Carpet piano bar, then Spina's Red Carpet restaurant, before the Grenauers took over the business in 1999. At that time, the restaurant took on a quirky sailing theme because the Grenauers are a boating family.

Boat decor was sprinkled amid the other small framed photos of Williamsville locales and old streetscapes. An attractive wood bar anchors an otherwise serviceable eating area that needed to reclaim a more historic atmosphere, the group decided.

The first sign of changes to come is an actual sign. The restaurant recently hung a carved black sign with gold lettering from the second floor. It does homage to the restaurant's establishment in 1887 and features a white stagecoach in the center of the design. That same design is featured on all the new lunch and dinner menus.

Glen Park Tavern, like many other historic Williamsville taverns that proliferated in the 1800s, benefited from the stage coach route the ran along Main Street. One stage coach stop was located only half a block away, Turgeon said.

The building apparently has been a restaurant and pub ever since, though it's a bit less colorful these days than it was in the 1800s.

"We don't know what went on upstairs," Grenauer said.

But there's a good chance it was a brothel, Turgeon cheerfully volunteered.

Now, the second floor is a utilitarian storage area that also houses the building's climate-control system.

To complete the restaurant and pub's transformation to a more historic feel, Grenauer said the restaurant will add a brick facade back wall, replace the contemporary lighting, add new wooden wainscotting, repaint the walls, replace the carpeting and make acoustical improvements to some sections of the ceiling.

Large historic photos of Main Street as it was when the tavern was first built also will grace the walls.

"You'll see Main Street the way it was back in 1887," Grenauer said.

Grenauer said she hopes all the interior renovations will be completed by the end of summer. Meanwhile, the restaurant and bar will remain open every day for lunch and dinner.

New placemats and table tents also will soon be coming, some featuring trivia questions and a challenge to find an image of the restaurant's ghost hidden in one of the menus. Whoever spots the ghost (a tavern patron run down by a stage coach) gets a free glass of "grog."

New tavern lunch and dinner menus just arrived this past week. While most of the menu items remain the same, the menu itself has been upgraded to an attractive eight-page design with some rebranded items like the "Rough & Ready Engine House #1 Chili," renamed for the Williamsville fire house down the street.