PUNXSUTAWNEY — If you're a regular at Rumors Tavern on West Mahoning Street in Punxsutawney you've probably been wondering why they don't answer the phone anymore on "Taco Tuesday" — or any day of the week?
The reason is simple: It's because the restaurant has closed due to the Saw Mill
Run bridge replacement project. However, a new Rumors building is being constructed just yards away.
PennDOT purchased the tavern building — which had been Murdocks for many years — from J.D. and Lisa Bussard, the current owners of Rumors, because the building is attached to the bridge and needs to be demolished before the bridge can be replaced.
"PennDOT gave us a date where we had to move out and had even given us an extension," J.D. Bussard said, adding that if they weren't out by a certain date, it would wreak havoc with the bridge construction schedule.
Deborah Casadei, PennDOT District 10, community relations coordinator, said the property needed to be vacated in order to obtain the right-of-way clearance.
"The clearance is needed to advertise the project and move the bid process forward," Casadei said. "The steps are sequential and need to be followed, providing checks and balances as the bid process goes forward.”
Casadei said if the steps are not completed, the process stops,
jeopardizing the project and the funding. Bussard said the problem that he ran into was not being able to complete his new building in time to have a seamless transition from the old Rumors to the new Rumors, which is currently being constructed on the same site.
He said PennDOT approached him in February about purchasing his building.
Bussard purchased Murdocks from Dave Bantley three years ago.
"It has been a wonderful three years; the people have been just wonderful to us," Bussard said, adding that a lot of Punxsy Hotel patrons started coming to Rumors after the Hotel was destroyed in a fire.
"Our tavern most resembled ‘The Hotel’ and was smoke-free," he said.
Bussard said at first, the new building was going to be pre-fabricated.
However, when the contractor came in and began to study the site, there were problems with the foundation, and a pre-fab building would not be able to be placed on the site.
Bussard said he was then contacted by Mike Defelice of Yates Excavation in Punxsy regarding constructing a building on the location where the pre-fab structure was going to be placed.
"Mike Defelice has been fantastic in helping us with our situation and giving me advice," Bussard said, adding that the new Rumors would never have gotten constructed this soon if at all, if it wasn't for him.
Bussard said he had the plans for the building already drawn up, but Defelice assisted with all of the red tape and working through the state and local building codes.
"Mike (Defelice) also helped with the permitting process with PennDOT," he said. Though the facade of the new Rumors is different, Bussard said customers will certainly know the tavern when they walk in.
"In the new building, I left everything the same," Bussard said, adding that he has a nice business and customers, so he decided to leave the layout pretty much the same as the old building.
"The new building will resemble the old one inside,” Bussard said. “When you go in the entrance, you'll turn to the left for the bar. The restaurant will be to the right, and the kitchen and restrooms will be in the middle.”
In addition, Rumors will continue to be non-smoking and will resume “Taco Tuesday” when the new building open.
One change that Bussard thinks customers will enjoy is the new building being constructed further from the road.
"When we closed, there were a lot of disappointed people. I hope they come back when we reopen," Bussard said.
He said he is hoping to open the new Rumors in January before Groundhog Day.
"We'd better be open by Groundhog Day,” Bussard said, “since we have a band coming in to play from Myrtle Beach for the big weekend.”