In the 1910s, five breweries and 70 bars operated in Pittston. Mom and pop taverns lined Main Street from north to south, several to a block. Some squeezed into storefronts only 5 feet wide.
Prohibition put them all out of business — at least legally — in 1920. By the time prohibition ended in 1933 — after 13 years, 10 months and 18 days — with the ratification of the 21st Amendment on Dec. 5, 1933, most of the Pittston bar owners had gone on to other businesses and jobs. After all, who could wait 13 years to reopen a business?
The end of Prohibition brought the beginning of the state Liquor Control Board and a new spate of applications for liquor licenses. Hotels which had licenses before Prohibition and were still in business after were accommodated first. They were serving beer, wine and liquor the night of Dec. 5, 1933.
Small stand-alone bars had to reapply. Among the early applicants was Albert Christiano. He open a bar at 340 S. Main St., Pittston, in December 1934, almost a year to the day Prohibition ended. Today, the business Christiano started is still going with the same name, the Red Mill Tavern, and at the same address on South Main.
Though the bar has gone through at least four different ownerships, it is the city’s oldest continually operated bar under the same name and at the same address.
In the mid ’30s Christiano advertised weekly in the Pittston Gazette and Wilkes-Barre papers, offering roast chicken or turkey for 40 cents and chicken or meatballs and spaghetti for 35 cents, salads, sandwiches and Stegmaier on draft. Barbecues were 10 cents and hot dogs 5.
Christiano didn’t last long as owner. His nephew, Ross Liacano, took over after a couple years. Clams and lobster were added to the menu. Liacano got a rude welcoming. In July 1940, burglars broke in after closing on a Saturday and stole all the liquor from the back bar.
The Mill, as its patrons knew it, was more than just a bar. It was a popular restaurant, meeting place and baseball team sponsor. The Mill needed a diversity of events to survive, since by 1939 there were 56 licensed restaurants in the city, most of them with liquor licenses.
During World War II, the 10th Ward Service Group met at the Mill to plan for gifts for soldiers serving overseas. The Mill threw going away parties for draftees. John Curran, Martin Burke and Harold Mitchell were feted on the eve of their departure.
In 1945, the Ewan Shop had a birthday party for two of its senior employees, William Davies, 78, and James Boase, 76.
Football fans could buy tickets for the annual Pittston High vs. St. John’s Thanksgiving Day football game at the Mill.
In 1947, ’48 and ’49, the Mill sponsored a team in the City Baseball League for players under 18. The Mill’s Jack Griglock was the league’s top pitcher. He was starter for City League All-Stars in a exhibition against Scranton South Side to raise money to send pennant winners from the league to New York and West Point.
On weekends there was live music, one group was known as the Trio, and dancing.
Ross Liacano died in 1942, leaving wife, Teresa; sons, Joe, Peter and Fred and daughters, Marilyn and Margaret. Peter took over the Red Mill Tavern. Eventually it was leased to Merle Ramage and later sold to Jimmy Carney.
Into the 1950s and ’60s, the Mill continued to be a favorite meeting place for class reunion planning and the Railroaders Old-Timers Club.
In 1971, Len and Louise Johnson bought the Red Mill. Although Len and Louise have both passed away, Len in 1982 and Louise in 2011, the Mill continues to be run by the Johnson family.
Improvements in the 1990s and early 2000s included extending the bar by using driveway space and adding a new kitchen, larger dining room and improved restrooms. In 2011, a glass façade was installed. The latest addition was an enclosed patio in 2016.
Today, the Red Mill Tavern — as it was back in the day — is a draw for sports fans. The Red Mill Tavern rocks on Saturdays as a premier Penn State football bar in Greater Pittston.