Between the swiftly ballooning shopping centers and developments in the area, a new restaurant or bar is always popping up in Morgantown.
Most of these are chains. I don’t mean to denigrate them; I like BWW as much as the next person, and I live in fervent hope that some inspired developer will finally bring Culver’s to the Mountain State. However, I am always happy to see something a little more seasoned.
Gene’s Beer Garden in Greenmont is often touted as the oldest operating bar in Morgantown. It opened its doors in 1944 and has had remarkably few owners over the last 80 years. Frank Perilli, a World War II veteran and bookkeeper for Zeller Glass in Morgantown, owned the establishment until 1985, when he sold it to Al Bonner. Almost four decades later, Bonner remains the proprietor.
Gene’s has a wide selection of beer and a slightly less robust selection of food, but the hot dogs and pepperoni rolls reliably hit the spot. The stage hosts local, regional and national artists that span genres.
Gene’s was founded 40 years before the advent of Facebook. However, the pub remains so relevant that its devoted fanbase outgrew the business’ Facebook page. “Gene’s Nation: We Love Gene’s Beer Garden!,” a public group on Facebook, sprang up to give enthusiasts a place to share photos, videos, stories and memories created there.
Historically, a public house has been where people can engage their senses with food, drink and music. More importantly, the pub has served as a place to connect with neighbors and larger communities.
As a transplant to the area, I don’t consider myself an authority on what represents an authentic or original Morgantown. But I will venture to say that Gene’s embodies the true sense of a pub.
EVA MURPHY is a freelance business writer for The Dominion Post. She writes a column on businesses, churches and other entities in the city. To suggest a topic, email her at Newsroom@DominionPost.com.