PITTSFIELD, Mass. — For a century, The Lantern Bar & Grill has been a stalwart landmark in the city's downtown.
Thousands of people have eaten in the restaurant at the corner of Linden and North and it had remained through generations of changes to the city's downtown. But, in 2017, Mark Papas decided it was time to close.
Last month, however, the neon sign lit back up and the smell of food cooking refilled the area. The Lantern was back. Bjorn Somlo used to eat there all of the time and he didn't want to see the landmark disappear so he took it over.
"We didn't want to see The Lantern close. We didn't want to see it go away. And we didn't want to see the sign being taken down," Somlo said.
Somlo is the owner of Nudel in Lenox. He said it wasn't really his plan to own multiple restaurants but he would joke with Papas from time to time about how if he was going to close, Somlo wanted a phone call.
In 2017, he got that call and talks began.
"If we didn't do it, it just would have been gone. It is a great piece of Pittsfield's history," Somlo said.
Mill Town Capital also got involved. The investment firm owns properties nearby and has been driving a lot of economic growth in the area. Tim Burke, a principal with Mill Town, thought bringing Somlo downtown would be a nice way to keep The Lantern alive.
"I always had a lot of respect for Bjorn's talent," Burke said, adding that he had urged Somlo to open something in Pittsfield multiple times in the past.
Burke wasn't just a fan of Somlo but also saw the building in a similar way. He, too, didn't want to see it close.
"It still has that old-school feel," Burke said. "It's always been a unique downtown legacy."
Mill Town Capital purchased the building, which also houses three other commercial tenants, as well as the tavern. The group later sold the tavern business to Somlo and a six-month renovation process began.
"It was basically the infrastructure, the things you don't see," Somlo said of the work.
The work included plumbing, electric, a new hood for the grill, and handicapped access compliance. Somlo said he tried to keep as much of what guests see the way it had been.
"Bjorn had a really strong vision for what he wanted," Burke said.
Raymond Stalker, who has been the chef at Nudel for five years, recrafted the menu. Somlo described the new menu as keeping the Americana feel of the original but with some updating.
"It's the food you know done really well," Somlo said.
The beer and wine menu was also expanded and the tavern opened in January.
The Lantern is open from 5 until 10 Monday through Saturday and closed on Sunday, but Somlo said if the demand is there, it could open for lunch as early as the spring. So far, Somlo said the response from the community has been "incredible."
"It's been incredible. There are so many people who stop in when they see the neon light on just to say thank you," he said.
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