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A LOOK BACK: Lawrence’s Tavern

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A parade in the foreground and Lawrence’s in the background about the time it opened in 1939. Note the bubble brick on the exterior —stucco was later put over it.

By Derek M. Otto

Last week I wrote about the WCTU and their quest to bring sobriety to the United States.  Well, in 1933, their efforts were reversed and America drank again.  Many of the bars and businesses in Springville had survived the 13-year dry spell through legal or illegal means. One of those few establishments was the Concord House, one of Springville’s great hotels.  It was three stories high, had a huge veranda and in the late 1860s and 1870s, it was the stage coach stop.

By 1939, things were changing in Springville and the Concord House met its demise.  It was to be razed for a new modern gas station run by Frank Block. So what happened to the bar business?

That year, Lawrence Zielinski Sr. bought the bar business for $800 from the McAllister brothers who ran the Concord House at the time.  Mr. Zielinski moved the bar across the street into space he rented, and later purchased in 1948, from Blanche Stady. In the beginning, the bar, named Lawrence’s, served 65 cent fish fries.   “My parents served blue pike, and then yellow pike; eventually they had to serve haddock,” remembered Larry Zielinksi.  Lawrence Zielinski ran the bar for 56 years until he died in 1995.

In 1995, Larry Zielinski Jr. was left the bar and decided that he didn’t want to see it close.  He was still working in Buffalo as an accountant.  He and his son relocated to Springville.  He commuted back and forth to Buffalo for work, while his son ran the bar during the day.   

Walking into Lawrence’s is like walking back in history.  Some of the same tables and chairs still remain from when they opened in 1939.  The walls are filled with historic memorabilia, including a large painting of the old Benz water wheel on Cattaraugus Creek by Shultes Bridge.  The old 1931 baseball photos of Springville’s baseball teams remind you of the original Lawrence who played.

“I keep the menu small,” said Larry. “It helps when licensing comes around and it’s easy to manage.”

Lawrence’s still serves hamburgers, cheeseburgers and fried bologna at a reasonable price.  Another tradition at Lawrence’s is the “Mucket Bucket.”  It was started by a group of regulars in the 1950s called the choir boys.  The bucket was a place to drop loose change or another donation.  Several times throughout the year, the money is given to local charities like Bertrand Chaffee Hospital, The Children’s League and the Boys Scouts.  Over $35,000 has been donated over the years.  It is the classic blue collar neighborhood bar that always dotted western New York. Believe it or not, Lawrence’s is the longest licensed establishment in Erie County.  That means that no other bar or restaurant in the region has had a continual liquor license for as long as Lawrence’s has.  It may be that Lawrence’s has not had any trouble that could be associated with bars. “We don’t attract it and we don’t want it,” Larry said.

Larry also mentioned that since he has taken over, distributors have changed.  At one time, you would have two or three distributors to buy from; today, you have one distributor that can raise the prices when he chooses to.  It makes it harder when you try to keep prices low.   

Lawrence’s offers domestic beers and liquors common to the area.  “We have our regulars, retired teachers and Winsmith workers— the same crowd we have had for years,” Larry explained.

One new tradition is the weekly Wednesday concerts by Springville’s own Bob Muhlbauer.  Every Wednesday from 6:30 to about 9:30 p.m., Bob performs on his acoustic guitar.   It’s a nice midweek draw for Lawrence’s.   

From the end of Prohibition to today, Lawrence’s has been providing Springville a quiet place to grab a beer and a burger.

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