A UK campus bar returns after being closed for more than a decade

By Matt Wickstrom, Kentucky.com
Photos by Brian Simms

Fishtank
Owner John Tresaloni is reviving his original UK campus-area bar, The Fishtank, that was open from 2000-2009 at the same location on Euclid Avenue. The bar will feature live music, beer on tap and (soon) a fresh menu of bar food. Brian Simms BSIMMS@HERALD-LEADER.COM

A familiar face is returning to the corner of Woodland and Euclid.

Following a nine-year stint from 2000-2009, entrepreneur John Tresaloni is returning and bringing back campus bar the Fishtank, which he expects to be open by October’s end.

The rebirth comes after the casualty of Best Friend Bar, which had been located in the building since 2014. Best Friend Bar closed on Aug. 29, due to financial complications stemming from COVID-19.

The struggle is something Tresaloni himself isn’t immune to as he also had to shut down one of his ventures, Cosmic Charlie’s, at the end of May. Coincidentally, it was Tresaloni’s decision to expand and start Cosmic Charlie’s, which opened across the street in September 2010, that shuttered the original Fishtank.

“I wanted to do both, but at the time the city only allowed a limited number of liquor licenses, leaving me to have to choose one over the other,” said Tresaloni. “We wanted to do more live music at the time so we shut down the Fishtank and focused on Cosmic Charlie’s across the street.”

With Best Friend Bar’s departure Tresaloni got in touch with Samir Said, the property’s longtime landlord, to discusscoming back. Upon taking over at the start of September, Tresaloni hasn’t done much to take away from the look of the now defunct Best Friend Bar aside from applying a fresh coat of paint.

Retractable garage doors facing Euclid Avenue remain, a plus for helping to bring more of an open air environment to the bar, weather permitting, during the pandemic.

“It’s not the best time to be starting a new bar or restaurant, but this opportunity presented itself in a way that I felt I needed to jump on it,” said Tresaloni. “With current regulations on mass gatherings and curfews, downsizing isn’t a bad option right now.”

With an indoor capacity of roughly 30 with social distancing and space for another dozen patrons on the patio facing Woodland Avenue, the Fishtank has much cozier confines than Cosmic Charlie’s.

Additionally, Tresaloni is looking to buy outdoor heaters to make the patio suitable longer into the fall and winter seasons.

Tresaloni also plans to book bluegrass, DJs and other live music on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Despite the smaller space, Tresaloni plans to target the nearby campus and Chevy Chase communities with 30-40 beers, including eight on tap, along with eventual plans to have quick, easy-to-serve food in its kitchen.

Food likely won’t be available until a few weeks after the bar officially opens, he said. Tresaloni has rented the space out to Mark Keith, a longtime friend and onetime roommate who he first crossed paths with over 20 years ago while the two were working as cooks at Shamrock Bar & Grille.

Menu items will include the “Danger Dog” — a bacon-wrapped all beef hot dog piled high with grilled onions and peppers, diced tomatoes, honey jalapenos, mustard and mayonnaise on a fresh-baked bolillo roll — along with tacos featuring either mojo-braised pork, pickled red onions, citrus crema and cilantro or marinated fajita chicken, grilled onions and peppers and citrus crema.

Also available will be a twist on the classic Philly cheesesteak instead featuring grilled teriyaki chicken in addition to hand-cut, twice-fried fries, smoked or deep-fried wings and homemade, hand-breaded chicken tenders served with a honey dijon dipping sauce.

“This is certainly going to be a challenge given that everything we’ve done in the past has been about packing as many people into our bar as possible,” said Tresaloni. “That being said, we will be adhering to all mask mandates, social distancing guidelines and sanitation measures to keep both our employees and customers safe during these difficult times and look forward to welcoming everyone back to the Fishtank.”


This story was originally published in the Lexington Herald-Leader and at Kentucky.com.

THE FISHTANK

Where: 500 Euclid Ave.

Hours: 4 p.m.-midnight daily

Online: Facebook.com/thefishtanklex/

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