“There’s really not any viable, non-smoking bars in town," Salopek, a Baden resident, explained. "That’s something that has been missing, I think, for awhile."The three friends met at the Rooks bar in Ambridge, where Salopek and Hendricks regularly hung out and Villella worked as a bartender. When a fire destroyed Rooks in July, the three were left without their favorite hang out—and Villella was left without a job.
The trio had casually talked about opening a place of their own—a clean, safe neighborhood bar to grab a good beer, a glass of wine and good bar food without having to drive to Cranberry or Pittsburgh.
That’s how Bridgetown Taphouse came about.
For about a year, Salopek had seen the “for sale” sign at 939 Merchant Street, the former Tonino’s bar, and the building had never sold. One day in August, he and Hendricks went to have a look around and met the owner. Weeks later, they were buying the place.
“Honestly, it’s something that we’ve been talking about kind of casually, for probably a little over a year,” Salopek said.
Brainstorming together, the partners came up with the right name: Bridgetown Taphouse. From the name, they worked out the other details.
“We definitely wanted it to be the taphouse, tap room, something like that,” Villella said. “We tried to put a lot of thought into every part of it.”
“We kind of wanted to bring something that was a little more than what you’d expect,” Salopek said.
The owners put a fresh touch on the building, from the renovations to the lighting and furnishings, based on their varied tastes and travels. The bar has a city feel and tips its hat to Ambridge in its heydey, Salopek said.
Salopek has roots in Ambridge. His family had a butcher shop and grocery on First Street and 14th Street from the early 1930s to late 1980s.
Like Salopek, his partners are connected to the area, as well.
Villella, an Ambridge resident, is an Ambridge Area High School graduate, as is Salopek . Originally from the Harrisburg area, Hendricks is also an Ambridge resident and has lived here for 10 years since getting out of the military and attending college in Pittsburgh.
Salopek always felt if he was going to give it a go, the best place to open would be Ambridge, a place he feels comfortable, knows the clientele and is among family and friends.
“To me, it didn’t make sense to do it in the North Hills or the South Side when there is so much good to be done here,” Salopek said.
Bridgetown Taphouse is set to open in time for St. Patrick's Day and will serve domestic and craft beer, including local and regional choices. A small wine list will rotate out reds and whites, served in 16-ounce wine glasses, The neighborhood bar will open with a limited menu and eventually serve fresh burgers, wings and other bar food. The kitchen will be open until midnight, seven days a week.
The partners said the goal is to deliver more than people expect at the right price.
“We tried to be cognizant of the price points and where we are and what we’re doing,” Salopek said.