Keg has run dry

A staple small business on Main Street in the village of Fredonia has called it quits after citing difficult financial times.

41 West Bar & Grille, one of the largest indoor bars in Fredonia, inserted an advertisement in the OBSERVER on Dec. 20 inviting dedicated patrons to its “last call” on that same night. Coincidentally, the bar was able to sustain itself for another eight days, officially going dark Dec. 28.

“We would like to say farewell and ‘thank you’ to all of our family, friends, employees and loyal customers who have supported us for the last eight years,” the ad stated. “With love, from Ron and Mary (Epolito), Carson and Bev (Leikam), Mark and Lynn (Brenecki), and Jim and Nancy (Fadale).”

Two of 41 West’s co-owners, Mary Epolito and Bev Leikam, attributed the bar’s closure to the economy and the lack of patrons walking down Main Street these days, among other factors.

“Business is obviously down throughout the village, I’ve seen. And also, running a small business in New York state is difficult. They don’t help you, and you’ve got to pay taxes and insurance and the like,” Epolito explained. “There was just so many contributing things to owning a business.”

“We were living from week to week, just trying to get through, so we decided to close the doors probably around the first half of December,” Leikam said.

Epolito added music royalty companies had stripped 41 West of much of its revenues, which the owners weren’t initially privy to.

“There’s three of them, and they each want $1,000 or more every year, because we had bands that played other artists’ songs, so that blindsided us,” she said. “And then other bars have bands, so you can’t have bands on a Friday and Saturday from somebody else’s; there’s not that many people to go around.”

“Those royalty companies killed us,” Leikam added. “They wanted a lot of money and we couldn’t bring in bands. For karaoke, you had to pay them. You can’t make any money if you can’t have anyone come in.”

Both Epolito and Leikam said they do not see college students from SUNY Fredonia out as much as they used to.

“We think they’re more inside partying nowadays; for this year, definitely,” Epolito said. “People just aren’t going out. Dunkirk has the social clubs, so those are always big. And driving is a big factor too, and people are much more conscious of that. There’s just not that much disposable income anymore. And I don’t think the college kids are getting the money their parents used to give them in the past.”

Leikam agreed with her business partner and said she sees the students going to house parties and binge drinking at those instead.

“The results of that are terrible,” she said, citing FredFest, a time when many students in Fredonia binge drink.

“There’s a lot of people just plain gone from the area, I think a whole age group from 25 to 35 that are gone,” Epolito added.

41 West used to run a restaurant, as well. However, that shut down after a couple years due to food prices.

“You were lucky if you broke even,” Epolito said. “We had good food, but it got where people were coming in for a fish fry and just getting water. No beer or anything. You made money one way and lost it another way.”

The building 41 West resided in is only one story, as well, so the revenue stream from upstairs apartment rentals is not available to businesses on the ground floor, Epolito added.

Toward the end, 41 West had two employees, but Epolito said in the beginning, there were many more when the restaurant portion of the bar was open.

While the keg may have run dry at 41 West, both co-owners said they will treasure the moments they spent meeting the college students.

“We’ve met so many wonderful people,” Epolito said, citing the college students’ 21st birthdays and the signature rainbow birthday shots the bar was well-known for, as well as the many Trivia Nights and Karaoke Nights. “The college kids have always been wonderful. We also had yearly discos, and we were packed for those first few years.”

“The kids that worked for us were fantastic kids,” Leikam said. “The kids from the college, you met them, they called us ‘mom.’ That was the best experience, meeting the kids and having a good rapport with them. Also, we rented the building. If I could do it all over again, I’d probably own my own building. Anyways, I hope somebody else comes in to fill that space. It’s just sad to see that empty space.”

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