Korner Pub calls it quits

Korner Pub owners Brandon Smith, Greg Ripper, Robb Full and Melissa Whittier.
Korner Pub owners Brandon Smith, Greg Ripper, Robb Full and Melissa Whittier. Photo by John Altdorfer

It could have been a movie.

It still could be, but it’ll have a sad part.

The Korner Pub has closed.

The bar, a landmark in the Lebanon Hall Apartments on the busy corner of Washington and Bower Hill roads in Mt. Lebanon for 80 years, closed after last call on Sunday, March 27. No cause of death was given, but the place had battled COVID-19 for more than two years.

The owners had not posted anything on the bar’s website or social media feeds.

“We just didn’t want to have a big goodbye party. Which happened on Sunday night anyways lol,” co-owner Brandon Smith told me in a Facebook message. He said the pub’s lease is up but did not elaborate.

Smith, who lives on Orchard Drive, bought what was a smoky dive bar in 2014 with Robb Full and his partner, Melissa Whittier, who live on LeMoyne Avenue, and another Mt. Lebanon guy, Greg Ripper, who has moved to Scott. When they were in college, this was a favorite hangout of these high school friends. As Smith told Mt. Lebanon Magazine at the time, “It’s like it’s our bar.”

They cleaned the place up, and stopped letting customers smoke, but otherwise, didn’t change much. Neon beer signs in the windows were a beacon for customers who entered via a creaky screen door and sat down at the short bar or one of the few tables, and ordered a beer from 10 taps or a humming cooler. Beer is the only thing The Korner Pub served (besides hard seltzer and the occasional cider). But it served good beer and supported a lot of local breweries.

It was just a bar.

“We’re actually a pretty popular first date location, because you don’t have to commit to a full dinner,” Full told Mt. Lebanon Magazine for a story last year. “You can have a beer and be done.”

The young owners brought some fancy touches here and there. They hosted some neighbors, Christian Schulz and Rebecca Nicholson, who did a series of monthly pop-up dinners there in 2018. That led to them opening a restaurant in Brookline called Menuette that, after its own pandemic difficulties, is now Oak Hill Post.

“I’m going to miss what we shared at The Korner Pub,” Schultz said, “but I am forever grateful to my forever neighborhood bar.”

The Korner Pub created a lot of good memories. Annie Skiba, who lives on Sunset Drive, posted on Facebook “a sad farewell,” describing it as “the pub that reminded me of my Milwaukee neighborhood bar, where we celebrated countless birthdays, anniversaries, nightcaps, life celebration, deep conversation with friends, shot quite a few good games of pool and threw some darts, bullshitted with the friendly bartenders who always knew your name. It was the place to bring your out-of-town friends and say, ‘see, my neighborhood is pretty cool.’ It was always the gem and will be tough to replace.”

Many of her friends agreed, including one who reminisced about her grandfather who, 30 years ago, “would go to the barbershop for a trim, then go to Korner Pub after for a beer.”

I first visited in July of 2015 and loved the cozy, understated vibe and while I didn’t go there a lot, I thought of it as my secret place, good for meeting a friend or just sitting quietly by myself with a good local beer, looking out through the neon glow.

It was just a bar.

RIP, The Korner Pub.