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Sale leads to new life for former Middletown restaurant; Midtown Pizza owner buys Black Horse

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 10/11/19

Say goodbye Black Horse Tavern - and hello to “Old Coaly Pub.”

The owner of Midtown Pizza, Massimiliano “Max” Randazzo, has purchased the Black Horse and plans to reopen it …

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Sale leads to new life for former Middletown restaurant; Midtown Pizza owner buys Black Horse

Posted

Say goodbye Black Horse Tavern — and hello to Old Coaly Pub.

The owner of Midtown Pizza, Massimiliano “Max” Randazzo, has purchased the Black Horse and plans to reopen it as the Old Coaly Pub in about six weeks to two months, Randazzo told the Press & Journal on Friday.

Midtown Pizza will remain as is. Randazzo will also keep as is the four apartments and 14 rooms for rent that are part of the Black Horse property at 101 E. Main St.

Randazzo bought the property for $500,000 from GFD LLC on Oct. 4, according to online Dauphin County records.

After completing some minor cosmetic renovations, such as painting and fixing up the outside steps, Old Coaly Pub will open as a pub featuring fare such as burgers, crab cakes, some entrees, cocktails and a wine list.

“It will be more of like a hometown restaurant/bar, nothing extravagant, nothing heavy. Good food at good prices with a good atmosphere,” Randazzo said.

The name Old Coaly Pub is for Old Coaly, a mule that helped build the original Old Main building on the main campus of Penn State University in State College. The mule also gained fame as an early Penn State mascot, long before the days of the Nittany Lion.

“Penn State has always been good to us,” since 1985, when Randazzo’s father bought Midtown Pizza and moved the family here from Mechanicsburg, said Randazzo, who is originally from Sicily.

“When the Penn State kids are in town, we get busier. It’s always been a blessing to have Penn State students in town,” Randazzo said.

While the name will help create a “Penn State atmosphere” for the students, Randazzo said Old Coaly Pub will “embrace the town” of Middletown as well.

“I want to make sure it is a pub for everybody,” said Randazzo. “This is a great town, this is a beautiful town. We’ve had our challenges with a lot of stuff but the town is a good town. It has a lot of potential.”

“I really believe in (Middletown),” Randazzo added. “I wouldn’t have invested the money that I did in Middletown if I didn’t believe in it.”

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board approved a new hotel liquor license for the property Sept. 23, PLCB press secretary Shawn M. Kelly told the Press & Journal.

Kelly said the license will be placed in “safekeeping” status until the premises are constructed according to the application to the LCB.

The licensee — Randazzo’s Trinagra Enterprises LLC — will contact the LCB when the project is complete. The LCB then does an inspection and signs off on the license, Kelly said.

Randazzo is a 1990 Middletown Area High School graduate. He started working for his father at Midtown that same year, and has been working in the restaurant business since.

Besides the restaurant in Middletown, Randazzo has a second Midtown Pizza on Eisenhower Boulevard.

He also owns Mugs Ribs & Wings on Eisenhower Boulevard, and the Bacco Pizzeria & Wine Bar on North Second Street in Harrisburg.

Most Middletown-area residents still know the Black Horse as the former Lamp Post Inn, which was a staple in town for many years until it closed and was sold in 2015 to GFD LLC.

GFD is a partnership that was run by the Zoumas family.

The partnership owned and operated The Manor Restaurant & Lounge in West Hanover Township and The Hearth Family Restaurant in Lebanon.

The partnership completed about $320,000 in renovations to the property. But the Black Horse never seemed to gain traction.

In August 2016, the partnership leased the restaurant part of the business to a partnership led by Tommy Pavlovic.

Pavlovic kept it going until May 2018, when he closed the Black Horse.

The property was put up for sale shortly after, with an initial asking price of $795,000 including the restaurant business, a liquor license, and the upstairs rental units.

Randazzo is aware of that recent history of failure. But he said he likes a challenge.

“This is a business, it has to be run as a business. You can’t run it as a playground, you can’t be your best customer, you run it as a business. You make sure your vendors are paid, all your bills are paid and you work. You have to work,” Randazzo said.

“A lot of people get into this business and they don’t realize what goes into it. It really is a lot of work. You sacrifice family, you sacrifice freedom, you sacrifice a lot of events, because you want to make sure your restaurants are doing well. For me, family is first, the restaurants second. That’s what I do for a living. I’m going to run it like I’ve been running my other restaurants. There are always ups and downs but hopefully I can get through the hard times and get it going,” he said.

As for Midtown Pizza, that is “here to stay,” Randazzo said. “Everybody has their own spot where they started, and this is where I started, so this is not going anywhere … God willing.”