The former Dryville Hotel on the corner of Lyons and Fredericksville roads in Rockland Township is getting a makeover.
By December the heavy smell of sawdust will be swept away and the Liberty at Dryville restaurant and bar will be preparing to open in early 2021.
It is the latest Berks County venture for co-owners Greg and Sherry Russoli and her son, Tony Reber. In 2011 they converted Nick's Chat-a While Inn on Prospect Avenue in Exeter Township into Liberty Taproom and in 2016 they converted the former Avenue Bar and Grill into Liberty Ale House. Reber operates all the Berks locations.
The Russolis also own and operate Tavern on Liberty in Allentown.
The family purchased the former Dryville Hotel Jan. 10 from Henry-Moss LLC according to county property records.
Constructed around 1847, there was a lot to be updated and fixed in the historic tavern.
“Jan. 15 the owners — Greg Russoli and Tony Reber — and myself, we cracked into the walls,” said Anton Altrichter, who is overseeing the construction at Dryville and is involved at projects at the other locations. “When I say cracked in, we went through the paneling, the stucco right to the original stone that hasn’t been seen in over 150 years.”
“We lucked out and it was all in good shape,” Reber said.
There were other areas, that were not in as good a shape. Altrichter said the floor was badly rotted from a roof leak.
They put on a new metal roof and scraped up about 6 inches of layered flooring and were able to salvage some of the wooden floor joists. Altrichter was able to repurpose them.
"This is me truly trying to keep the history of Dryville alive and well," he said. "My buddy Chris Becker, who is a former owner of HiJinx Brewery, his father has a saw mill so he came out with his wood meiser and we loaded up the floor joists and turned them into trim.”
He also has used the reclaimed wood to make a new bar top.
A unique L-shaped stadium seating platform area has been added that will be more inviting for groups, Altrichter said.
Seven 40-yard dumpsters of debris have been removed Altrichter said, noting six yards of concrete have been poured in the basement.
The basement walls needed repair, especially after tapping in 3/4-inch rod that were 18 inches long to support the new flooring. Because of the age of the plaster, special treatment was required.
“The mortar mix we used is indigenous to about 1860," Altrichter said. "The mix is that what would have been used originally, keeping it intact and keeping that breathability because the stone does expand and contract, so you can’t use cement."
"We are trying to keep it (supplies) with local businesses,” he said.
Construction is slated to be finished Dec. 1, but a firm opening date has yet to be set.
“As far as opening, it’s kind of hard to say with the way everything has played out,” Reber said. “I have some people in place already, but you have all of the hiring to do. In this climate it, it’s underdetermined how long that would take. I’d say early 2021 is probably realistic.”
“It would have been sooner, but amidst all the financial scenarios with COVID and half capacity, why push?” Altrichter said. “We’ve been able to take a lot more time to give really unique attention to detail paying homage to the history of the place.”
Reber said Liberty Taproom chef Trevor Fake will be developing the menu at Dryville.
"He is going to act in more of a blanket capacity as far as menu development is concerned, monitoring standards and he is going to share his time amongst locations,” explained Reber, noting Dryville will get its own chef once things are up and running.
And what will the menu be?
“We are kind of trying to find that fine line of offering people things that are not readily available in that area, as well as keep it food that is approachable," Reber said. "We are going to try to implement a lot of Pennsylvania Dutch-style dishes as well as some traditional pub fare and things with a little bit of twist and that are a little elevated. It’s still going to be reasonably priced, it’s not going to be a fine dining restaurant or anything along those lines.”
Of course, there will be beer — many taps and bottles.
“One of our selling points is as a craft beer hub,” Altrichter said. “We have knowledgeable bartenders that can explain to someone the difference between a Belgian quad or a Belgian strong ale or a West Coast IPA or a New England-style IPA so they can learn a little more about their palate and why they like that style of IPA, or beer or Belgian or sour or farmhouse ale."
Since the Dryville Hotel closed in late 2019, Liberty at Dryville will mean a welcome return to food and drink within walking distance for the village residents.