Johnny Heil read J.R. Moehringer’s best-selling memoir “The Tender Bar” 10 years ago on an offhand recommendation from his father. Late this month, Heil and fellow restaurateur Sean Peters will reopen Publicans, the Plandome Road pub made famous by the book.
“The book struck a chord with me as it did with a lot of other readers,” Heil said. “I filed it away in my mental Rolodex, and remembered it when I started looking to open something in the suburbs outside New York.”
In March, Heil, of Huntington, and Peters bought the property, which had been vacated by Edison’s, a bar that operated on the site for 15 years, Heil said. Before Edison’s, Publicans had sold food and drinks at the 500 Plandome Road location from 1970 to 1999.
During property dealings, Peters, a Manhasset resident, said he and Heil wanted to be sure a reopening of Publicans was something those connected to the bar wanted. Luckily, Georgette Schnitzer, wife of the late Publicans owner Steve Schnitzer, is Peters’ neighbor, he said.
He met with Schnitzer, and over a bottle of wine, he said they laughed and exchanged stories about the bar during its hey-day. She gave her blessing, he said.
While its original bar top remains, Publicans’ white-washed brick walls and cedar wood tables add a contemporary twist.
“We respect the past but we also want to bring things forward,” said Mike King, the restaurant’s general manager. “We’ll do what we can to serve the best food possible.”
Executive chef Rich Schoenacher said the food offerings will include classic Publicans staples like its signature hamburger, a steak for two and a warm spinach salad.
The drinks menu will include an “approachable yet diverse selection of craft beers” as well as bar staples like Coors Light, said Andy Thorne, the assistant general manager. A focus on American wines will feature those from vineyards on the North Fork and in the Finger Lakes region, Heil said.
Though it will offer a wide selection of alcoholic beverages, Publicans intends to be a family-friendly restaurant.
The bar’s 11 televisions will show sports year-round.
“We’re definitely big sports fans,” Heil said. “Publicans was famous for its horse racing fans back in the day. The Triple Crown will be featured prominently.”
Heil said he had spoken at length with Moehringer about the reopening.
“He’s thrilled to see Publicans come back to life,” Heil said.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer is currently in Sag Harbor at work on his next novel, Heil said.
Asked if Moehringer would ever visit the bar, Heil said “if his schedule allows.”
“He’s definitely getting a VIP invite,” he added.