LOCK HAVEN — Local business owners Chris and Nichol Bilbay hope to create something new as they prepare to open The Coast Bar, 4 N. Henderson St., Lock Haven, to the community.
The bar’s soft opening, taking place Wednesday, July 12 at 4 p.m. will feature a condensed menu of food and drinks — including a special on wings, a dozen for $5 — and a solo acoustic show by Rich Slessinger.
According to the couple, owners of the bar and its counterpart — the Henderson Hotel — they wanted to open a space where they could have a similar experience to their younger years.
The couple, as they planned to open the bar, reminisced about going out dancing, having a few drinks and making new friends.
“We’re looking to do karaoke, dancing, open mic night, trivia nights, just stuff so you can go out and have a good time. When we were younger, many years ago, there was a bar that had all of that stuff. You could go and be 21 sitting next to someone who was 60 having a good time with them. All ages — anyone who wants to come out and enjoy themselves,” said Chris.
“We went out to a few bars and it was the same every time — no one was dancing and everyone was on their phones,” said Nichol.
“I can sit on my phone at home,” joked Chris.
The couple has big plans for the bar, including special events and regular staples.
One of these events will be on Friday July 21 to celebrate the new Barbie movie. The Coast will be serving a special drink, the “Bar-bee Blast.” On Sunday July 23, patrons who wear pink will get $1 off the Bar-bee Blast for the evening.
They’ve laid out the bar so that on one side you have the DJ and dancing area, and then a seating area separated by a half-wall, allowing patrons to enjoy both conversation and music without one drowning out the other.
“We’re trying to hit multiple aspects of what someone wants,” said Chris.
Some of the couple’s other businesses include, GLO Tanning, Bulldawg Storage and Your Guardian Angel Preschool and Childcare; though they have previous business experience, this is their first restaurant/bar and hotel.
The Bilbays wanted to keep some of the history of the bar intact, pulling from town history to come up with the name of their establishment.
“Way back when, with Hammermill, there were bars lined along the train tracks,” said Chris, “The area we’re in was called the ‘Barbary Coast’ and the location of our bar is the end of the line.”
“Back when I was a kid,” said Nichol, “International Papers was where First Quality is now, my dad and all of his siblings worked out there, and so did a lot of the community. Back then, whenever they would get off their shifts, they would start at the top of the hill and work their way down the tracks.”
Nichol highlighted specific bars from the past, Ben and Marie’s, Saint Clouds, Greico’s and Angelo’s. Angelo’s later became The Edge before the Bilbays purchased the building.
The Bilbays have big plans for renovations for the future, including additions to the grass field behind the bar. They hope to have activities outside, a stage for outdoor shows, outdoor seating areas and even a deck.
“We got the area around the bar licensed for alcohol too so you can have it outside,” said Chris.
The couple also want to host community events at the establishment, whether it be hosting live music or having a pop-up petting zoo for the kids. They’re working in tandem with their neighbors, The Sons of Italy, for events as well.
“We want to compliment each other, not take away from anyone,” said Chris.
As they kick off the start of their business, the Bilbays have been introducing to the public 13 of their staff — four of which were their children.
The first staff member introduced was their daughter Erika Kennedy, who will be waitressing after school and on weekends while she pursues her dream as a cosmetologist; Montana Bilbay, front end manager over the bar and dining room, has a brewing degree from Penn College with two years experience brewing in multiple breweries; Mekah Bilbay is another one of their daughters who will be washing dishes and shadowing cooks while she figures out what she wants to major in for college; Trinity Bilbay is working specifically at the Henderson Street Hotel, using her cleaning ability along with coworker Emily Friese to clean out the rooms of the hotel.
Chris and Nichol hope to set up a legacy that will persist through their eight children.
“The goal in our life is that if we were to pass away tomorrow, each of our kids would have something as a life, not just material stuff,” said Nichol.
Though the bar is currently serving half of their planned menu, they’ve had various tastings of items on the menu.
“Our cook, (Mike Funk), is best known for his prime rib,” said Nichol, who raved about the chef’s cooking.
The cooking team employed at the bar are Mike Funk and Traci Fryer, who have been a team at different restaurants for over 15 years.
“They’re phenomenal,” said Nichol. “They came highly recommended. Most of the food is from scratch — it’s just so good. You could cut his steaks with a butter knife.”
“We’re adding more and more to the menu as we progress,” said Chris. “By the time we get to the grand opening we’ll have a full menu.”
The menu, by the time the grand opening comes around, will have everything from hot dogs to prime rib; haddock specials, black diamond steaks and more.
The bar will offer both beer and mixed drinks; a few of the options on tap are Angry Orchard, Double Broken Heels, Michelob Ultra, Yuengling, Blue Moon and Bald Bird’s Bird Lite. The Bird Lite is a seasonal IPA which will be rotated out every season to keep their menu fresh.
“We wanted (bartenders) with fresh ideas — we encourage them to experiment with drinks. Just have fun with it,” said Nichol, who explained a few of the drinks they’ve tried so far. According to her, Arizona Hard Half N Half tea goes great in their lemon slushies.
“We’re still figuring out what the area wants,” said Chris. “But for a lot of them, if we don’t have it on tap we have it in bottles. If someone comes regularly and they want a certain beer? We’ll order it. As long as we can get it and you’re going to be there to drink it, we’ll buy it.”
The couple are in the process of renovating the Henderson Street Hotel; just like with the bar, they have big plans.
“We’re in the middle of renovating all of the rooms,” said Nichol. “We’ve gotten one room completely done, and we’re slowly trying to bring back the hotel atmosphere.”
According to the Billbays, the hotel has enough space for 21 rooms — a few of the rooms even have full kitchens and are handicap accessible. The hotel will be available for both bar patrons and outside guests.
“(When the hotel is ready) we plan to always have one or two rooms open so that if someone drinks too much and is unable to drive, they have that option,” said Chris.
The Coast’s grand opening will feature their full menu and a dance party night on Saturday, Aug. 12, and will feature DJ Scott Vid Andrus from 8-12. There will be giveaways, specials on drafts/drinks as well.
Visit their Facebook page, “The Coast Bar with Henderson Hotel,” for updates on events and specials.