Change is coming for Looney’s Pub, a staple of Canton nightlife for nearly 30 years.
The sports bar and restaurant at the corner of Linwood Avenue and O’Donnell Street will sell to a new owner “after much debate and soul searching,” Looney’s operators said in a statement posted to Facebook this week.
“It’s bittersweet to say the least, but we decided it’s time for someone with the motivation, energy, determination and heart to continue what we started almost 30 years ago,” the Sept. 22 post announced.
Dominic Lascola, who owns El Bufalo Tequila Bar + Kitchen on the other side of O’Donnell Square, will take over the long-standing pub. Lascola and business partner Bryan Kevin McGlory, the chef at El Bufalo, plan to continue to operate Looney’s as it is “in the immediate term,” but eventually want to renovate and reopen the space under a new name, said Caroline Hecker, an attorney representing Lascola.
“There will ultimately, in the future, be some change in concept,” Hecker told the city’s Board of Liquor License Commissioners at a Sept. 22 hearing, where the board voted unanimously to approve a transfer of the Looney’s liquor license to McGlory.
“This is an iconic piece of real estate, and with our tenure and the amount of success we have had in Canton over the past 10 years, we thought we could help the space become what it has the potential to be moving forward, as well as run the operations efficiently,” Lascola said in a statement emailed to The Sun on Friday. He said his goal is to retain all of Looney’s employees during the ownership transition and to “create worthwhile opportunities for all involved.”
Looney’s founder Bill Larney could not be reached for comment Friday.
He and co-owner Steve Litrenta opened Looney’s on the square in the spring of 1993. The pub was their vision of the “perfect bar,” according to a history on the Looney’s website: “a place with awesome food, lots of beer on tap, plenty to do while hanging out and any sports game you want to watch on the tube.”
It’s also credited with helping to jump-start the nightlife scene on O’Donnell Square, now known for its bars and restaurants. Looney’s is particularly popular on St. Patrick’s Day, with revelers arriving early in the morning to kick off a day of celebration.
To the community, the pub “was our little sports bar,” said Amanda Bourgeois, the president of the Canton Community Association. She lives a short walk away from Looney’s, and has fond memories of sports games and midnight grilled cheese orders at the bar.
“I’ve seen a lot of turnover on the square and such,” Bourgeois said, but “these guys have been my neighbors for 20 years.”
Looney’s has since grown into a local chain with bars in Perry Hall, Bel Air, Maple Lawn and College Park.
The pub’s Canton location sold for $1 million, according to documents filed with the liquor board. Though Lascola and McGlory haven’t publicly shared their rebranding plans, the liquor board application shows images of the building with a new facade and a sign that reads “Time Bistro.”
“We want to honor the rich legacy that Bill and Steve have created over the last 30 years at Looney’s,” Lascola said by email. “As their Canton neighbors and fellow business owners, we have a ton of respect for them and appreciate what they mean to the neighborhood.”
Lascola’s acquisition of Looney’s will add to his growing restaurant portfolio in the city. In addition to El Bufalo, he also operates Raw & Refined on the Canton waterfront, and soon plans to open Prima Dopo, an Italian bar and restaurant in Fells Point that sparked some controversy earlier this year when neighbors objected to a planned rooftop deck.