Niagara Gazette

February 9, 2014

It's lights out at The Pub today

By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Last one out of the Lewiston Village Pub tonight, please be sure to turn off the lights. And lock the doors.

The experiment in fun that’s polarized Lewiston’s village community is coming to an end in what’s expected to be a rather emotional, raw day for owners Ed Webster and Ken Scibetta. The pair have decided to sell their first foray into the restaurant business, six years and hundreds of parties after opening for business on a cold January day in 2008.

Since then, crowds have packed the building at 840 Center St. for any number of get-togethers, from Cinco de Mayo celebrations with donkeys in front to their biggest party of all, on St. Patrick’s Day. They built a successful business the best way possible, through creating and engaging a community to ensure Lewiston prospered before either of them.

“We drank the Kool-Aid,” Scibetta said. “The biggest thing that got us where we are is the ‘Cheers’ mentality. We got involved in everyone’s life and they got involved in ours.”

Scibetta and Webster met while working at Water Street Landing just down the road. After they got the itch to get out on their own, they looked and looked for a place. Eventually Webster’s friend purchased the building now known as the Lewiston Village Pub and helped the pair get started.

Originally just a bar and one dining area, it took time to build up to what the world now knows as The Pub. For countless weeks both men worked seven days, sleeping when they could and opening for short hours after putting their heads down.

Blood, sweat and tears went into the business, which is why it shocked everyone when Webster and Scibetta announced Wednesday that they were closing it.

It also explains how a post on a Facebook page could reach more than 13,000 people, many of whom live outside Western New York, and elicit wonderful memories and sadness from customers at the same time.

“I had a customer break into tears (Friday),” Webster said. “He told me this is the greatest place he’d ever been. To think we put together a place here that’s had this kind of energy. I don’t think I’ve been to another place where people feel this comfortable.”

Comfort is certainly one of the main ingredients in The Pub’s winning philosophy. At the end of the day, the place is called a pub because it’s supposed to be a place anyone can step into and feel accepted, Scibetta said. It’s a place where anyone can come in whether they’re wearing shorts and a T-shirt or a tuxedo, order a drink or some food, and feel like they’re home, he added.

But while comfort is important, so is fun. And The Pub’s been no stranger to outlandish celebrations. Scibetta said one of his favorite memories over the last six years was planning the first big event to coincide with Webster’s first major vacation from their baby. It was a vacation that fell on May 5, Scibetta said, so he pulled out all the stops.

Yes, live donkeys were involved.

“I went into the village office and asked the clerk if there was any permit I needed to have donkeys outside,” he said. “I’ll always remember (village clerk) Anne (Welch)’s reaction. She said ‘No, there’s no permit.’ That was our first major party. It’s been unbelievable ever since.”

With rising popularity for its parties, whether for special holidays or the weekly “Club Pub” offerings that had Scibetta working as DJ Biscuits, closing shop seems like such a shock to those who stepped through the doors. But Webster said he and Scibetta decided that their future requires leaving Lewiston, due to some political pressure they’d been feeling for years.

The real reason for exiting Lewiston on top of their game is still a mystery. Neither Webster nor Scibetta was interested in divulging the details. But they both said going out on their own terms at this point is the best they could hope for. They said five potential buyers are in line and any sale will include the building’s name. The only thing they won’t be able to guarantee is the community feel they’ve established.

They’re definitely hopeful, though.

“It’s been the greatest six years of my life,” Webster said. “And this is the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. It’s crazy something so little can have such a lasting impact on people. I just hope whoever we sell this place to has the same commitment to the community as we’ve had.”

“It’s been an honor to be part of this community,” Scibetta added. “I hope the community stays true to its roots. I’ve always felt this village is a a special, special place.”

A new place Read about Ed Webster's and Ken Scibetta's new venture, The Griffon Pub in Niagara Falls, in today's Lifestyle, C1

Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.