The process of rebuilding has begun at 71 Main St.—formally the site of Kelly’s Saloon—after a fire left the street-level bar charred to the ground on July 29, 2015.
Since its establishment in the late 1970s, Kelly’s had become a staple of Geneseo nightlife known for patronizing students and locals alike. It served as a stop on senior bar crawl and a location for the Geneseo senior tradition the Tom Collins Challenge, where seniors would attempt to drink one Tom Collins a day from the day after spring break to the end of the semester.
Owners Mike and Kathy Roome have left the majority of reconstruction to be spearheaded by their granddaughter Sarah Dieter, a former bartender for the business.
Dieter, who said in an email that she is “knocking on the door to breaking ground very soon,” reported that the process has been slow, but steady.
“It’s riding on a few last loose ends along with Old Man Winter’s will, but we are close,” she said.
Dieter added that she hopes to have the bar open by the end of the summer or beginning of the fall semester and will keep the space similar to what it was before, “but a bit bigger.” The building will gain square footage and be altered to agree with new code requirements, including bigger bathrooms and a walk-in cooler out back. The space will remain narrow and the bar will be in the same place, although extended in length.
Dieter emphasized that support from the community has been unbelievable and inspiring. “It really is a beautiful and powerful thing when people come together … and to have it all be in the name of the history and love for a place that has meant so many different things to different people … I feel lucky to be a part of it,” she wrote.
One of those people is junior political science major Maggie Doran, who created a GoFundMe page for Kelly’s the same day as the fire. The mission statement of the page is “to help rebuild the historic Kelly’s Saloon on Main Street. Kelly’s has been a home to all and doesn’t deserve to go down like this. All proceeds will be going to anything insurance doesn’t cover: the things that make Kelly’s what it is. Even though signatures and signs have been lost, the memories still stand! Consider it just payment for a TC that won’t be able to be made in the upcoming weeks.”
Doran, who had not yet met Dieter or her family when she started the page, did so in honor of her family members who went to and loved Kelly’s in the past. “I’ve used GoFundMe pages before, so I knew how successful it could end up being and I wanted to save Kelly’s for the people that cherish it.”
Doran emphasized that she is very excited for the rebuild. “I cannot wait to experience the bar,” Doran said.