It may not be one of those nice, round, neatly numbered, divisible-by-five anniversaries that people like to name after precious metals – bronze, silver, gold, etc. – but the seven-year anniversary of Bart and Urby’s (119 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre), to be celebrated this Friday, is nevertheless a special one for owner Brian Urbanas.
It commemorates both a successful past and a bright vision of the future.
“The growth has been a slow process. We didn’t do it too fast, which was part of the plan. When businesses get too big too fast, they tend to outgrow themselves,” Urbanas said.
The growth he’s referring to is not just the popularity that Bart and Urby’s has achieved as a downtown nightspot, but also the recent addition of “The Other Side,” a secondary venue located beside/connected to Bart and Urby’s main bar and dining area.
The Other Side, officially opened this summer but alive in Urbanas’ mind long before that, is specifically geared toward accommodating musical performances and theme parties, like the ‘90s hip-hop-inspired show DJ Evil Bee is hosting on Thursday as part of the anniversary festivities.
Other festivities include a Halloween costume contest, Happy Hour drink specials from 5-7 p.m. and 9-11 p.m., a “customer appreciation” appetizer spread (plus birthday cake, of course), and, a first for Bart and Urby’s, karaoke with DJ Justin Davis. The various offerings are a microcosm of Urbanas’ business philosophy, which, like a three-ring circus, is all about having a little something for everyone.
“On Monday nights, our Wings and Yuengs Nights, we get a big college crowd. Most evenings, from 5-7 p.m., it’s more for business professionals, the 25-and-up crowd. Then, when we have our Trivia Nights, we get a lot of people in their 30s,” he said.
“That was part of the reason behind building The Other Side, to have a place for the younger kids and the bands and the DJs, so you can come here on any given night and not worry about the noise. This way, that can have its place, and the main Bart and Urby’s side can still be a place you can bring a date.”
According to Urbanas, the creation of The Other Side is also just the beginning of the expansion the Bart and Urby’s owner has planned for the future. The growth he envisions is not limited to his own burgeoning business, though.
“I’d really love to see some new retail businesses in downtown Wilkes-Barre. I think that’s one thing the area still needs,” Urbanas said, adding that he hopes Bart and Urby’s and The Other Side can continue contributing to the ongoing revitalization of Wilkes-Barre.
“When we first came here, there was almost no one else around, besides Katana. Seven years ago, there was nothing like Bart and Urby’s here. When we first started, there weren’t even street lights. There was no one downtown on a Friday night. Now, there’s traffic. It’s been great seeing all the changes.”
In the face of recent crime and tragedy, such revitalization efforts, he believes, are more important than ever.
“Regardless of the negative things that have happened in the downtown recently, it’s not really a dangerous place. It is safe. People should support the downtown businesses. All the businesses, not just mine,” Urbanas said.
”People shouldn’t be scared. The more people that are downtown, the safer it will be. The wrong thing to do is run away from it.”