‘We are changing the atmosphere.’ Seminary Street Pub reopens after 2018's fatal shooting

Samuel Lisec
Galesburg Register-Mail
Matt Bernardi said the Seminary Street Pub will offer a specialty "Bushwacker" frozen drink that mixes ice cream and liquor.

GALESBURG — The Seminary Street Pub is officially reopening Monday, Oct. 3, under new owners.

Brothers Matt and Brad Bernardi — owners of the Sidetrax Bar & Grill, 441 E. Main St. —  bought the pub at 105 S. Seminary St. earlier this year. Matt said they have renovated the horseshoe countertop pub with new flooring and décor, and people can expect a different “atmosphere” than when the place was last open.

The Seminary Street Pub has been closed ever since Jenni McGruder, 26, was shot and killed in the city parking lot behind the first block of South Seminary Street on April 1, 2018. The bar was previously owned by the Seminary and Cherry Holdings LLC.

“We don't want to offend anybody. We are changing the atmosphere back to a local hangout versus a dance club,” Matt Bernardi said. “Any kind of violence or fighting, we're not going to tolerate. They will be kicked out and banned for good.”

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The Seminary Street Pub will be open every day of the week, from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. on weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. on weekends. 

Inside, neon bar signs and stained glass windows collected from local antique stores adorn exposed brick walls. The bathrooms, flooring, electrical work and beer garden have all been renovated and a dartboard and video gambling area can be found in the back. 

Charles Grayson, a Sidetrax employee, stands outside where he has been helping the Bernardi brothers update The Seminary Street Pub's beer garden.

The pub will focus on drinks, as no food other than pizza or popcorn will be served, but Bernardi, 42, said people are welcome to bring food over from Sidetrax, which is just a block away. The pub will have the usual stocked shelf, as well as six beers on draft and three taps dedicated to domestics. 

People can also order a specialty item, the “Bushwacker,” which is a frozen ice cream drink with “about five shots mixed in.”

The pub will have four TVs, but the place is not going for a sports theme and will not hire DJs. Bernardi said they would prefer The Seminary Street Pub be somewhere customers can come to socialize and listen to classic rock and roll. 

The Seminary Street Pub has been renovated with new flooring, electrical work, beer garden and a video game gambling room in the back.

Perhaps that hinges best on the pub’s unique horseshoe countertop, which can seat at least 35 people around the center of the barroom. Bernardi said he knows of no other place in town with a horseshoe countertop and the open layout makes it easier for people and big groups to interact. 

Bernardi said The Seminary Street Pub was one of his favorite bars in town when he first moved to Galesburg from Pekin 2005, and it was around its countertop that he first met many of his friends and future employees. 

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Matt Bernardi estimated about 36 people can seat around Seminary Street Pub's distinct horseshoe counter.

Bernardi and his brother bought Sully’s Pub in 2006, opened Sidetrax in 2011 and The Trax Northside Grill in Monmouth in 2019. He said he’s worked in the bar and food-service business since he was 21 and has learned a lot from operating a couple of high volume restaurants in Nashville and working for the family Bernardi’s Restaurant in Washington, Illinois.  

Bernardi said he’s not too concerned about the rising challenges of inflation or staff shortages, as he’s hopeful that by not serving food The Seminary Street Pub will require less staff to operate. As of now, he said the pub has two full-time and between 8 and 10 part-time employees. 

"Brad and I are both really excited about a new venture, a new challenge,” Bernardi said. “We're really hoping to give the community another fun place to visit and socialize at.”

Matt Bernardi said the Seminary Street Pub was where he met many of his friends and future employees when he first moved to Galesburg 20 years ago.