(Brian Choquet/ Amherst Independent)
(Brian Choquet/ Amherst Independent)

The Spoke to debut expansion this month


March 9, 2018

AMHERST — Since its change in ownership last year, The Spoke has come a long way from its quirky beginnings as a theme bar with cycling paraphernalia plastered along the walls and a ceiling decked out in hanging bicycles.

Those days of hanging bicycles are just a memory now as 38-year-old owner Chad O’Rourke continues to rebrand the second oldest bar in Amherst by expanding the business into its neighboring space, previously known as Sub & Pizza.

According to O’Rourke, nothing from the old Sub & Pizza will remain. New additions include a new bar area featuring a stylish blue Bud Light-branded fridge. (Brian Choquet/ Amherst Independent)

The expansion will include the addition of a full kitchen and food menu; a new bar, patio and seating area; and both men and woman’s three-stall bathrooms.

Max capacity for the bar will go from 70 to 180 people and the staff is expected to triple, according to O’Rourke.

“Part of it was just the whirlwind of demand we had,” said O’Rourke when discussing the need for the expansion.

The kitchen will be an upgrade from the crock pots and outside food The Spoke used to bring in to feed their patrons. Now their menu will include classic bar food such as wings, nachos, French fries and beer pretzels; along with an assortment of toasted, panini-pressed and cold sandwiches.

Part of the wall that separates the college dive bar and the former pizza place will be knocked down to connect the two spaces. The expansion will keep the same modern aesthetic as the original space, including the blue walls and college sports paraphernalia.

“It’ll kind of be the same old Spoke at a bigger level,” said O’Rourke.

As a snow storm occurs outside, UMass alumnus and The Spoke bartender Greg Cantor, 25, waits patiently in an empty bar as his boss O’Rourke works on renovations next door Wednesday, March 7, 2018. (Brian Choquet/Amherst Independent)

The expansion has cost $150,000 and has been in the works since November when O’Rourke picked up the Sub & Pizza’s lease when its owner wanted to close the business. This expansion will be the second the bar has gone through since O’Rourke bought the business January of last year.

He originally closed down the bar, which first opened in the early 1980s, for six weeks for renovations and redecorating that included a new bar top and a fresh coat of paint. This remodelling also meant the bicycles had to go.

“That was the number one thing I wanted to get away from was the theme of the bicycle stuff and make it more modern … but keep the heritage behind the name of The Spoke,” said O’Rourke, who also owns two other bars in the local area along with Pipeline Properties, Inc. in Amherst.

Well guys it's been one hell of a year with the reestablished Spoke. In fact it's been so good and you guys have been so awesome that we had no choice but to grow bigger and better for you. The Spoke will close our doors tonight at 1am BUT DON'T WORRY, when you come back from spring break we'll be huge and ready to take you all on. Some things to look forward to…more bathrooms! That's right, 3 women's stalls and 3 men's, increase in occupancy, another patio, a kitchen and most important you can continue to count on our drink prices remaining the same and our awesome staff and management who kill it to make sure you all Stay Spoke! Alyn from Captain Morgan is in from 10-11pm tonight doing a tasting and giving away some things. Thank you all for an amazing first year and get ready for an even better second year!

A post shared by The Spoke (@thespokeamherst) on

To prepare for the final steps of the expansion, The Spoke held a send-off party Thursday night before closing its doors for the coming week. According to The Spoke’s Instagram page, patrons can expect it to reopen in two weeks. Just in time for college students to return from their spring break.

Reach Brian at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @BrianShowket.