The former Matt Reilly's has a storied history in the town of Lanesborough.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — It wasn't that long ago when Kim McArdle and her brother Brant Boyington decided they didn't want to work for other people, they wanted to work for their own family.
The pair considered opening a business. McArdle spent much of her career in restaurants — that's where she met her husband, Tom — and she had also opened a marketing company.
She was playing cards one day with a bookkeeper for Matt Reilly's who told McArdle that Helen Reilly was looking to sell the longstanding business on the lake.
Matt Reilly's has been a staple in town for 75 years as a family business. It was exactly the kind of business the McArdle knew she and her brother could be successful owning.
"How could you beat this location? It has a great clientele, good customer base," McArdle said with a smile as she gestured toward the large windows and deck with one of the best lakefront views around.
The price was a bit steep for them so they sought out a partner. They talked to friends who knew friends and got connected with Paul Ambrus. Ambrus has some 25 years of bar experience and has owned the Canyon Inn Sports Bar & Grill in California since 2004.
He looked over the numbers, visited the property, and asked around about it. He couldn't pass it up either.
"It looked like too good of a deal to pass up. I just saw the potential for it. I have a lot of plans that will take some time but with the location on the lake and the amount of property we have, I want to utilize every inch of it," Ambrus said.
Ambrus is now the majority owner and McArdle and Boyington split the rest. The three closed on a $775,000 deal to buy the property and the business on June 27. That day was the only day the bar had closed in years.
The next day they re-opened as Lakeside Bar & Grill. Tom McArdle, who worked in the kitchen of Mario's Restaurant for nearly his entire life, took over the kitchen operations.
"The first thing we did was change the menu around and there was an immediate reaction to it, upgrading to better quality food," Ambrus said.
That weekend the business showed its potential as the Fourth of July week brought hundreds of customers to the restaurant, often leading to wait times. Ambrus and McArdle admit it got overwhelming at moments. The kitchen got backed up because of new menu items and there were problems with the point-of-sale machines. But they said the customers were understanding.
"We have a totally different style. The day we opened, we set up the kitchen in a different way. We are serving different food," Kim McArdle said.
It could have been worse. McArdle had a head start on operating the business so she started with some sense of the people and the operations.
"Helen was kind enough to let me be here for a month and a half, two months before. I got to know the employees. I got to see the kitchen. So everyone was comfortable to work as a team," she said.
Now, two months later, the owners believe the kinks have been worked out and are now looking toward the future. They are bringing in more live entertainment and crafting ways to bring snowmobilers and skiers to the restaurant during what has been the typically slow season.
And eventually, they're looking at expanding the deck area, opening up the inside by taking down a wall, adding televisions and a dance floor, barbecue and fire fits outside, and capitalizing more on the lakefront.
"I do want to knock the wall down in between the dining room and the bar, open that space up," Ambrus said, as he walked around the property pointing out various flooring, wall and deck space, he'd like to change or renovate.
He said the place has operated mostly as a restaurant and he'd like to instill more of a nightlife into it. He's planning on bands, karaoke, music bingo and more.
"We are a restaurant/bar but they were mostly a restaurant that has a bar and wasn't utilizing it. I want to turn the bar into a night spot," he said.
Ambrus' said the bar has been "stagnant" and can use some revamping. And he knows from experience. He started managing his bar in California in 1997 and he took over ownership in 2004. But then the recession hit, revenues declined and his idea of opening a second bar was shelved. Now he thinks it's time.
"I've been the owner there for almost 15 years and kind of ready to take on a new project. I wanted to open a new place around 2009 but I wanted to make sure my first place was paid off. That was going to be the foundation," Ambrus said.
Matt Reilly's was closed for just one day before Lakeside Bar & Grill opened on the Route 7 property.
His bar started "feeling it" by 2010 and it wasn't worth the risk to start a new project. But in 2011, the California bar's turnaround was featured on the TV show "Bar Rescue." The bar is now doing very well and Ambrus is back in a position to take on another project.
"I needed a new project," he said.
His father had owned a business in Pittsfield and that's how he got connected with McArdle. He sees potential in the Lakeside but says any changes won't happen in a 45-minute television show. Rather, the physical changes to the property will occur over a period of time.
"I thought the deal was good enough that I'm willing to travel," he said.
McArdle plans to split his time between the coasts. But he'll focus much of his attention in Massachusetts, particularly in the first year. He bought his father's old house in Pittsfield and sees a footprint back here as a way to be closer to friends and family from his hometown in Staten Island.
"It is kind of crazy living in California and getting involved with a business 3,000 miles away. But there were a lot of variables to it," he said. "It is a new adventure."
While there will be some changes, McArdle has been talking with the regulars frequently to make sure she doesn't lose them. She said certain menu items were kept for them and the things they like will remain. But, she also said the customers have been supportive of her ideas and the changes they hope to make.
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