This article written by BERNIE KILKELLY and was originally published in Long Island Press
The popular Tap Room group of gastropubs opened its sixth Long Island location in Jericho in December 2023 and has plans to open two more in 2024.
According to co-founder James Bonanno, a seventh Tap Room is expected to open in Garden City in June and the eighth location soon after at the new Station Yards development in Ronkonkoma.
The first Tap Room was opened by Bonanno and co-founder Dave Johnson in Patchogue in 2011. The two young friends, who had grown up in the community and were bartenders at the Dublin Deck, dreamed of opening their own place. Gastropubs pairing craft beer with high-quality food were a hot new trend, especially in the emerging Patchogue restaurant scene. “We wanted a big, rotating beer selection and freshly-made pub food,” said Bonanno, “including no pre-frozen appetizers.”
Bonanno and Johnson took over a space on West Main Street that formerly housed PeraBell Food Bar, a pioneering gastropub that had opened in 2006 and was moving to a larger location. PeraBell’s owners, Scottie Campbell and John Peragrine, partnered with Bonanno and Johnson to get Tap Room launched. Two years later, Bonanno and Johnson bought out their partners, purchased the building and doubled in size by expanding upstairs into space that was formerly apartments.
Based on the success of the Tap Room concept in Patchogue, Bonanno and Johnson began to look at potential locations in other Long Island towns with vibrant downtown areas. Joined by new partner Kevin Boyle, they opened a second Tap Room on busy Park Avenue in Massapequa Park in 2015.
To guide future growth plans, Upstream Hospitality Group was formed in 2019 as a holding company for Tap Room and other restaurant concepts they owned, including Bango Bowl, which has five locations on Long Island and two in Westchester. “We’ve been pleased with the growth of Bango Bowl and are looking to expand through franchising,” said Bonanno, “but for Tap Room we plan to own all the restaurants.”
A third Tap Room location opened on East Main Street in Bay Shore in 2019 and was an immediate hit. The pandemic did not slow down Tap Room’s growth, with new locations opening in Rockville Centre in 2021, Farmingdale village in 2022 and most recently on Jericho Turnpike. The new Jericho location features all of Tap Room’s popular regular events including weekday Happy Hours, weekend brunches with bottomless bloody marys or mimosas, and live music or DJs on weekends.
Rotating draft beer lists with 24 taps are a mainstay of Tap Room’s appeal. “Our individual pubs choose some of the rotating beers and we like to feature local craft breweries,” said Bonanno. Tap Room also seeks out locally-grown ingredients for its menu and supports non-profit organizations including Smile Farms at IGHL in Moriches to source fresh cilantro, parsley and lettuce.
The planned Garden City location will take over a space on Franklin Avenue formerly occupied by Calogero’s Italian Restaurant, along with next door space from a former salon. “This will be one of Tap Room’s largest locations,” said Bonanno, “and we also plan to use a basement space for private events and possibly a speakeasy.”
Tap Room’s eighth location is targeting a summer opening at the Station Yards mixed-use development next to the Ronkonkoma LIRR station. The billion-dollar complex from East Setauket-based Tritec Real Estate is projected to have 1,450 apartments when completed, along with retail and office space.
Growth beyond Long Island is also in Tap Room’s future, although Bonanno said they will expand methodically. “Upstream’s long-term goal is to have 50 Tap Room restaurants, with possible next locations in Westchester,” said Bonanno. “We plan to move slowly to make sure we continue to provide an elevated experience for our customers and our staff.”