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Neighborhoods: Bloomfield tavern makes noticeable change

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Crossing the Bloomfield Bridge toward Liberty Avenue these days, it's a little less clear what neighborhood you're entering. But there isn't any doubt about the bar you're passing.

For roughly 20 years, the wall of the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern offered Liberty Avenue motorists the greeting, "Welcome to Bloomfield." Painted with each letter (except the "i") sprouting from a flower pot, the mural was a neighborhood landmark. But tavern owner Steve Frankowski says that in July, he decided it was time to spruce up the wall that his father, Stanley, had used to advertise the community for two decades.

The new mural, painted on a white background, advertises the bar instead: It depicts the Polish flag betweeen "Bloomfield Bridge Tavern."

"It's in honor of my dad," says Frankowski, adding that he plans on adding the words, "Pittsburgh's Only Polish Party House, In Loving Memory of Stanley A. Frankowski."

"It was very nice for my dad to donate [the wall]," Frankowski adds, "but we thought we would do something for the business."

Standing behind the bar, underneath a framed photo of his father, Frankowski says his father "was always giving and helping out." So Frankowski thought it would be nice to give something back to the tavern itself, which his dad opened in 1985.

For years, Frankowski says his dad wanted to attach a deck to the side of the bar. He passed away three years ago, without ever doing so. (In part, Frankowski says, because he warned his father that the deck would take up parking space.)

But with a statewide smoking ban due to take effect in September, Frankowski had an idea that would both retain his smoking customers and satisfy his father's wishes: He finally decided to build a deck.

"I want to make the smokers happy," Frankowski says, adding that he hopes to have the deck completed by the time the ban kicks in. "They can go out there and smoke to their hearts' content."

But upon deciding to build a 16-by-20-foot deck adjacent to the 20-year-old fading mural, Frankowski says his own son told him, "Dad, that looks pretty shabby."

Frankowski decided the cure was a new mural -- one that both looked nice and gave the tavern a better identity.

"I know some people are upset," he says, because the old sign was a recognizable landmark. But "it was time," he adds.

The new mural "definitely looks better," says Josh Rohm, a mechanic at the Gulf station catty-corner to the tavern. "It catches your eye."

Besides, he adds, it's not like the neighborhood's identity has been completely lost. "They still have the '[Pittsburgh's] Little Italy' sign there," says Rohm, pointing to the welcome sign across from the Bloomfield Bridge.

Lawrenceville resident Jean Simon has nothing against the new mural, but she says she "always liked" the old one. Upon passing the mural nearly every day while running errands in Bloomfield, the 87-year-old recalls, she would say to herself, "Here I am."

The new and the old murals at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern.
  • The new and the old murals at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern.
The new and the old murals at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern.
  • The new and the old murals at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern.

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