John Barleycorn won’t die; establishment seeks new owners

John Barleycorn won’t die; establishment seeks new ownersThe John Barleycorn, located at 216 Front St. in Owego, is up for sale. After a long run, the community-friendly, neighborhood tavern will close its doors on March 30. (Photo by JoAnn R. Walter)

The John Barleycorn, located at 216 Front St. in Owego, is up for sale. The neighborhood bar that greets patrons with an outdoor sign, “Coolest Bar in Owego,” will close its doors on March 30.

General Manager and co-owner, Barbara Dunnigan explained that retirement is now at the top of her to-do list, and it is with great sadness that she announces the closing of the Barleycorn.   

In 2015, Barbara and her then husband, Tom, and who remains a co-owner, celebrated ten years as owners of the popular establishment. The Dunnigan’s kept the community-friendly tavern going when they purchased it in September of 2005, and also retained the classic name which was coined by a previous set of owners.

John Barleycorn won’t die; establishment seeks new owners
Countless patrons have walked through this door located at 216 Front St. in Owego. Specials will be offered through March 30, the Barleycorn’s last day. The Barleycorn opens at noon for St. Patrick’s Day. For information, call (607) 687-6501. Barleycorn Pizza will be open during its regular Thursday, Friday and Saturday hours through March 30 and can be reached at (607) 327-0361.  (Photo by JoAnn R. Walter)

Regarding the sale of the property, Dunnigan commented, “There have been several interested parties,” adding, “However, we’re looking for the right match. We’d like owners who will keep it as the Barleycorn and who really love it, too.”

As of this writing, no offers have been accepted.

Built in 1861, the property has been home to the Defiance Hook & Ladder Company #5, Embers Restaurant, a gym and sauna, The Stables Restaurant, Kevin’s Place, and most recently, the John Barleycorn.

Four years ago, a new sign was hung outside the entrance to the Barleycorn since the original was weathered and aged. A local artist was able to replicate the details of the design created by well-known cartoonist Johnny Hart. Hart gifted the original sign to Don and Marguerite Adams shortly after they opened the Barleycorn in 1975.  

Dunnigan is sentimental about the closing of the Barleycorn, and rightly so.

“I’m so pleased and thankful for all of my devoted staff, they have been great,” Dunnigan remarked, adding, “There are so many good memories, too.”

Dunnigan said that she has enjoyed all of the bands, musicians and disk jockeys that have played at the Barleycorn through the years, as well as special nights that featured karaoke and trivia. She understands that the community is sad about the closing, and sincerely hopes that positive memories will remain. Dunnigan shared, too, that countless friendships were born at the Barleycorn, including several individuals who met their spouses there. In addition, the establishment has been a popular place for get-togethers and class reunions, among other events.

Bartender Janelle Brailsford shared that she enjoys the Barleycorn’s “hometown bar atmosphere.”

Brailsford said, “It’s the kind of place where names are remembered, and where relationships are formed.”

In 2013, Bob Tiddick opened Barleycorn Pizza in the upstairs kitchen of the building. Creating thin-crust, hand-tossed New York style specialty pizzas, along with calzones and Stromboli and other take-out menu items, the Barleycorn closing also means a change for Tiddick.

Tiddick commented that he would be open his usual Thursday, Friday and Saturday hours as Barleycorn Pizza through the end of March.

As for a new place to call home, Tiddick said that several individuals, with some business options that will offer him a similar situation, have approached him. He is thankful for the loyal following and looks forward to continuing his pizza-making passion. As of this writing, a decision has not been made.

“It may not be called Barleycorn Pizza anymore,” Tiddick said, adding, “But it will still be the same specialty pizza that I made at the Barleycorn.”

Through March 30, the Barleycorn will be offering a variety of specials and live music. On St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, the Barleycorn is set to open at noon and will offer, among other specials, green beer for the occasion.

Dunnigan recalled a past St. Patrick’s Day when the weather was more like spring and guests were able to enjoy time on the back deck, which overlooks the Susquehanna River, and one of the fond memories she will always remember.  

Dunnigan remarked, “I would like the last days to be positive, and I want to see everyone going out with a smile on their face.”

The Barleycorn is now closed on Monday and Wednesday. Other weekdays they are open at 3 p.m., Saturday hours start at 2 p.m., and Sunday hours start at 8 p.m. with March 17 being the exception.

A limited amount of merchandise will be available for purchase. For information, call (607) 687-6501 or find the John Barleycorn-Owego on Facebook or Instagram. Barleycorn Pizza can be reached by calling (607) 327-0361.

1 Comment on "John Barleycorn won’t die; establishment seeks new owners"

  1. Shelley Roush Burke | March 17, 2019 at 9:36 am | Reply

    Makes me so sad. I’ve been going there for over 40 years. I moved to NC years ago & miss my hometown so very much. I visit twice a year & the BC is where I go every day I’m home. My Mom comes with and is a place she loves too & feels comfortable. Many memories there. HS reunions. Rekindling old forever friendships & making new friends at the BC. The thing I miss about home is the familiar places. The coziness & appreciation for history. I love coming home knowing it will always be the same & welcoming. Something a big city doesn’t provide. I sure hope someone takes over who will love it like I do & like so many others ❤️

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