by Tom Pedulla
Change is coming to Demeter’s Tavern and Sports Bar. And that is not easy for customers who feel so at home at a cozy spot owned by the same family since 1947.
Stephen Demeter, who took over the operation with his brother, Donald in 1990, as the third generation, finds himself reassuring customers that they will ultimately welcome the extensive renovation once it is completed.
“A lot of people say, ‘Don’t change this. Don’t change this,’” said Demeter. “We’re going to keep the same feel. The same people have been with us forever. It’s still going to be the same charm. It’s just going to be newer.”
The business closed on May 20. The projected re-opening date is July 7 with the intention of celebrating the 70th anniversary in style.
A new roof, new air conditioning, larger high-definition televisions and a gleaming mahogany bar that will have outlets for laptops are among the improvements.
Outlets for laptops?
The founders, Frank and Elizabeth, would never have seen that coming. And it is jolting to patrons who have counted on the place for decades for nothing more complicated than lunch or dinner with a home-cooked touch, a drink or two after work, and conversations with fellow customers who quickly become friends.
Trish Pozzi, one of the bartenders, finds herself doing more hand-holding than usual these days. She promises that, although Demeter’s will be different, it will not be all that different.
“Some of these guys have been coming here for 20 or 30 years, so change is scary for them,” Pozzi said. “It’s still going to be that homey, ski-lodge feel.”
Perhaps there could be no greater compliment to Demeter’s – and to what it represents to the community – than customers who would want to cling to a roof that leaks and an air conditioning system that remains balky despite frequent repairs.
Locally, Demeter’s is the closest thing imaginable to a real-world Cheers.
“It was, and still is, the most wonderful place you could go,” said Melanie Clish, a customer since she moved from her hometown of Pittsburgh to Tarrytown in 1997.
In a sense, Demeter’s was her salvation then. The change had been wrenching for her as she left behind family and friends to relocate to an area where she knew no one. She desperately sought a friendly face.
Then she walked into Demeter’s — where there are always friendly faces.
“They make you feel totally welcome,” Clish said. “They are the nicest people you could ever meet.”
That goes for the owners, staff and customers, an engaging mix of blue-collar workers, corporate types, families and guests at nearby hotels.
“We play music. We sing. You can be goofy there. You can be sad. Whatever you want to be,” said Clish, adding, “There have been joys and sorrows, births and deaths, and everything in between.”
Michael Mahonec has been a regular since the early 1980’s. There is no place he would rather be, especially on NFL Sundays.
“It’s comfortable,” he said. “That’s the best word to use.”
So comfortable that Allison Montovelli continues to work as a waitress on Friday nights as she has since 1990 despite having a full-time position as an office manager.
“It’s like a big family,” she said. “I just could never give it up.”
When Pozzi moved from Yorktown to Tarrytown two years ago, customers did the heavy lifting. Many of those same people were high on her guest list when she planned her wedding.
As if this place wasn’t special enough, Demeter said no price increases will accompany the facelift. Even more comforting to devotees, he emphasized that his family remains as committed as it always has been.
“We’re not going anywhere,” he said.