Inside Business Track: Finnerty’s Tap Room
A New Restaurant and Bar Opening Before the New Year
By Chad Neal
As we watch the evolution of Ellicottville taking place, we see new businesses open up and become part of the community. Being the destination that this place is opens up the doors for places to settle in and start making a name for themselves. Another place is slated to open in town behind Kwik Fill where the Armor Inn previously operated: Finnerty’s Tap Room is the name and Bill Finnerty has been approved to open and run the new business. The Villager caught up with Finnerty and sent him some questions about his new endeavor here in Ellicottville, here is the conversation:
The Villager: Can we get some background about Bill Finnerty?
Bill Finnerty: [I] Currently live in Hamburg, NY with my wife of six years, Beth Deet Finnerty, sister to one of my best friends from St. Francis High School (Hamburg, NY) and our two St. Bernards- Conan and Finn.
V: Where are you from?
BF: I was born in New Jersey, then moved to Towanda, PA near the Pocono Mountains, where my love for the great outdoors began. When I was 7 my dad took position as the head Golf Pro at the Orchard Park Country Club. I moved to Hamburg, NY in 1989 and have spent the last 27 years here.
Looking forward to getting a place in Ellicottville we’ve actually been looking for the past few years (worked with Melanie Pritchard), but my wife & I can’t really agree- she loves being able to walk into town, I want some land for the dogs. Now that we’ll be spending more time down there we know it will be easier to find the perfect spot.
V: What other places do you own or where did you get experience in the business?
BF: I’ve drawn most of my experience from my 21 years at JP Fitzgerald’s in Hamburg, NY. I started as a bar back during college and realized the Service industry is where I truly excelled. Under Bob Brunner, owner of JP’s I learned the importance of Customer Service, Employee Engagement and the skills necessary to sustain a successful bar/ restaurant.
After 21 years at JP’s I left to explore other opportunities. I spent a few months helping a friend open a bar/ restaurant in East Aurora, NY -where I was able to gain some of the additional knowledge I would need to take on the endeavor of opening my own place.
V: What inspired you to take this endeavor?
BF: Owning my own place has been a lifelong dream, but in order to understand how we got here you’ll have to hear a bit of the background story. My mom was misdiagnosed in 2000 with Parkinson’s at the age of 50, later we found out she actually had a rarer neurological disease -MSA (Multiple System Atrophy). My brother and I were her sole caretakers for many years, until we got married and our wives helped out. My mother lived with my wife and I until she past in 2013. This is when things started to drastically change for me – I was a bit lost, looking for a way to pay tribute to my mom, I began getting more active in community organizations that helped those in need- in addition to chairing a number of fundraisers I became a very active volunteer to the Meals on Wheels (MOW) program. Eventually they asked me to join the organization on a more permanent basis as a paid employee fast forward to today. I’m still passionate about giving back to the community and I will remain a volunteer, but I’ve recently had to resign my position at MOW to dedicate the time needed to make Finnerty’s Tap Room the place I envision.
V: What is the theme of Finnerty’s Tap Room?
BF: I don’t necessarily want an overarching theme, but more a vibe. I love that the Tap Room carries my name – it gives me a lot of pride; I want it to be like it is when I host a party at my house, I learned a lot from working at JP’s. It’s all about the people and their needs. So whether I’m hosting my fantasy football draft or a pool party for my nieces and nephews, a birthday party for my mother in law or a cocktail party for friends, I want everyone to be comfortable & relaxed (that’s somewhat tougher during the football draft) where we have everything the crowd my might need or want and they can truly have a good time.
V: Will you have a lot of live entertainment?
BF: We would like to feature smaller acoustic performances, but with the stage, and the set up at Finnerty’s we look forward to bigger acts during the bigger community activities. Again, much will depend on what our customers want.
V: How well do you know EVL?
BF: Well, most of my knowledge of Eville comes from my many fond memories of partying at Oktoberfest, participating in the regatta or renting homes during the winter with my family for frolicking in the snow. But after attending the board meeting and having a chance to meet and interact with Mayor Burrell and some of the community members, I’m looking forward to not just knowing Ellicottville, but being an integral part of the community. I hope that in 20 years people are telling stories about that time at Finnerty’s, like my friends and I do about that time at the “Gin Mill”.
V: What will you do to make it a draw?
BF: I’m focused on meeting the need of my customers; we plan on having an extensive list of food and beverages incorporating many local favorites. As Finnerty’s becomes a staple in the community I expect our reputation & word of mouth will draw the customers.
V: When do you plan on opening?
BF: Shooting for mid-December, we’d love to be open for the Christmas break – but I also want everything to be how I envision it. Doing things right is much more important than the date.
V: Do you have staff?
BF: In the process of staffing, we’re accepting resumes at email@example.com and doing open interviews Saturday Nov. 5th from 12-6pm and again on Sunday from 9am-12. And scheduling more throughout the month – this is one of the things we know we need to right, we really want to bring in as much local staff as possible.
V: How many do you think you will have on staff?
BF: As many as needed to provide the best service.
As the middle of December rolls around and we see the new place opening – Finnerty’s Tap Room on Mill Street behind the Kwik Fill gas station and convenient store, make sure to go and check it out. As Finnerty is gathering a squad of local folks to help him out in his endeavor this weekend, go have a glance at his vision. Ellicottville is always changing and Bill Finnerty is excited about being part of the next stage of changes here.