Viola’s Bar & Grill reopens today. At 10 a.m., a business that has been a family venture and neighborhood landmark for decades will welcome loyal customers and newcomers alike. The Brennan Street business has undergone a renovation four months in the making, which breathed new life into a building that has stood since 1870.
Mark Viola, the third generation to own and operate the bar and grill, has taken on a partner, Gabe Chamberlin. Chamberlin, who is the sales manager at Shultz Toyota/Edmond Chevrolet Buick GMC Inc., has been involved in the auto sales business for over 20 years. He began visiting Viola’s as a customer and enjoyed the atmosphere and ambience. This prompted him to discuss a partnership with Viola, bringing a new set of eyes and capital to a popular local business with a loyal customer base.
Viola will continue to handle the day-to-day operations, while Chamberlin will take on the bookkeeping and also be serving customers a few days a month.
Viola explained that the years are adding up for him and he likes the idea he’ll have a chance to “step back a little” with the addition of a partner.
The business has been given a thorough makeover. Chamberlin explained that one silver lining to the shutdowns and layoffs that occurred as a result of COVID-19 was that numerous people who were interested in seeing the bar succeed were instrumental in helping to get a lot of work done in a short period of time.
“We have an amazingly loyal customer base. We wouldn’t be here without them,” Chamberlin said. “We feel the small changes we made can bring in additional customers for our future success.”
The friendly, neighborhood vibe of the business will remain. In fact, an area near the pool table will house memorabilia related to the establishment’s family history and a memory wall with pictures of patrons who have passed away and new photos of those who frequent the business. However, certain features of the venue were showing their age, and the renovations have provided a facelift patrons will appreciate.
Customers will be greeted with new walls, floors and ceilings, light fixtures and a new patio/sidewalk area prior to entry. Patrons can enjoy new chairs and tables or a new stool at the bar. New glassware, cutlery and dishware have been purchased, along with new glass stands for storage.
The bar offers more than 40 beers and seltzer beverages and has over 50 different liquors, including whiskies, bourbons, wines and vodkas.
The pool table has been resurfaced and three new flat-screen televisions have been installed, providing four in total that will engage patrons with various entertainment options on any given evening. The renovation extends beyond these changes and includes new bathrooms, new plumbing, electrical wiring and new windows throughout the building as well.
The kitchen was gutted and has been renovated with commercial-grade equipment, allowing for new menu items, “meal for any budget,” according to Chamberlin.
The popular Vi Pie pizza will be featured on the menu, along with a crowd favorite, the muffuletta hoagie. The muffuletta is a salami, capicola and ham hoagie with cheese and homemade olive salad.
Six additional varieties of hoagies will be available, as will other popular dishes.
Food will be served from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. although from 9 p.m. on, the menu is limited to Vi Pie and nachos. Viola’s well-known Thursday spaghetti lunches are returning, and the hours have been extended. Spaghetti can now be ordered from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Mike Cornelius is the kitchen manager and early evening bartender; Terri Roulo, who has been working at Viola’s for over 15 years, is the special events coordinator and will also be serving specialty drinks on Friday nights. Emily Colosimo is the new addition to the staff. She will be trained by Roulo, and will take bar shifts to help with the transition and to facilitate Mark Viola’s move toward retirement. Colosimo will also be helping in the kitchen.
“We hope to add more staff as time and COVID allows,” Chamberlin said, referring to current limitations on serving capacity, set for businesses due to the pandemic.
There is also an expansion of parking for the venue. With Chamberlin’s purchase of the house next to the bar, the shared driveway beside that structure can be used to access parking that will be located behind the building. Signs will be posted to help patrons access this area.
New doors are on order, and some other changes may be expected in the coming months to complete the new look.
The business will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday and closed on Sundays.