That's the spirit-Forty Bar & Grill striving to be a popular haunt

Rick Shrum
Observer Reporter

The management crew of Forty Bar & Grille couldn’t have chosen a better time to launch – Oct. 31.

On Halloween, on reputedly haunted grounds.

After nearly seven months of construction, Forty Bar & Grille is targeted to open next Monday, said Emily Cottrill, project manager/office manager.

“Everyone’s super excited. We put a lot of work into it,” she said.

The bar and grill, at the intersection of Route 40 (Chestnut Street) and Mounts Road in North Franklin Township, was built on the site of Club 40, a restaurant/bar that operated for 66 years before closing Aug. 31, 2012. It was a popular local haunt – that was haunted, according to the individual who shuttered the place.

“The place is truly haunted,” said Marie Meeks, whose family owned Club 40 at the end. “I worked there for 10 years and had many encounters with various forms of ghosts and spirits, as did our staff.”

She has many stories as well, which will follow.

Operators of the new facility realize that to have more than a ghost of a chance of succeeding, they must offer a number of attractions. Appropriately, there are spirits along with a varied menu, wine, beers and a spacious dining area with soft brown tones. Moonshine cocktails will be a specialty. An outdoor deck, Cottrill said, should be completed next spring.

Outdoor signage was not up as of Thursday, but Cottrill expected it to be in place over the weekend or today.

William Harvey of Scenery Hill designed the space. Except for exterior walls, this is a new structure.

She said “nothing too special” is planned for opening night, but there will be a party on Halloween. Robert Merashoff owns Forty Bar and oversees a management team of Cottrill, Ray Gilpin, Catrina Heckathorne, Lucky West and Steve Wissick, who also is the chef.

Forty Bar has a staff of 70 and will be open daily – for natural beings and the supernatural.

Gremlins or no gremlins, Club 40 opened at the same location in 1946. Meeks said that, according to “local lore,” the club assumed a space previously occupied by a chicken coop.

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken?

She said the building was remodeled several times, the last occurring in 1985.

Meeks is convinced that Club 40 was haunted, and admitted in an email that “to tell the truth, I have been wondering if the ghosts stayed behind when the building was gutted.”

The club’s final owner related a number of tales in that electronic missive, including a personal one. One evening, she encountered a man who was in a restricted part of the building. He was wearing a red sweatshirt, blue jeans and a baseball cap pulled down. She escorted him to the bar and told her husband, Mike, about the mysterious guest. Mike looked for the man in the bar and restroom, but did not see him.

The following October, one year to the day later, Mike was driving in the parking lot when he saw a man who waved then disappeared. A search inside and outside the club failed to turn up the individual – donning a red sweatshirt, blue jeans and a baseball cap.

A few others, according to Marie:

• “Oftentimes late at night, when the customers where gone, bartenders would hear the men’s room door open and footsteps walking toward the bar exit. Sometimes you could hear a bar stool being kicked/bumped as they walked out.”

• “Several employees actually saw a young, blond-haired woman. She was spotted once in our dry stock room peeking through a space in the wall where the dumbwaiter was. One of our waitresses had been putting stock on the dumbwaiter to send upstairs. She looked through the same space to see this woman looking back at her. They both ran off in opposite directions.”

• “Our manager went in early one morning to prepare the food order for the week. As he walked through the dining room, he could see a faint blue light coming from the kitchen. When he entered, he saw the blonde lady cooking on the flat top grill. They looked at each other, and he turned around and left the building. He returned after daylight, checked the grill and it had not been used.”

• “There was a mirror in the dining room. It was about 4 in the afternoon and only one table occupied. An older couple wondered where we had gotten the ‘Halloween mirror’? When our waitress questioned her, the diners replied, “We keep seeing an old lady’s face appear and disappear in it.”

Ghosts or not, Forty Bar & Grille is in the spirit of serving guests – and striving to replicate the success of its predecessor.