It's not every day you find a bar populated by university students ... and that's run by a professor. But such is the case at Gene's Place, owned and operated by Carlow University business professor Gene Ney. "I teach in the daytime and do the bar thing at nighttime," says Ney.
Ney was living in an apartment above the bar — then known as Denny's — when he got to know the previous owner, Denny Bird. He picked up a few odd jobs for Bird, and, before he knew it, he "was running two bars while working on my doctorate."
In 2004, Ney purchased the Oakland bar from Bird. "This place is my living room," he says. After a remodel, the bar re-opened as Gene's.
It was just another chapter in the building's rich history. The bar's story goes back more than 100 years. According to Ney, the building originally housed a bakery. Legend has it that the bakers started selling beer, and eventually the brews proved more popular than bread. But Prohibition reared its ugly head, and the bar became a shop for the sale and slaughter of live chickens. (Or not: Ney suspects the site was "likely a speakeasy" the whole time.)
The beer at Gene's is a throwback, too. It's nearly all Pennsylvania-based, though you won't find trendy, local microbrews. Classics like Straub, Chesterfield, Yuengling, Duquesne, Stoney's and Iron City grace the taps. "I'm probably the only bar in Allegheny County that has Stoney's on tap," Ney explains.
Like any true neighborhood bar, Gene's Place has its quirks. There's a handcrafted Stanley Cup replica made from aluminum foil and plastic jugs, spare change in the men's urinal and a pet goldfish named Donnie who was rescued from a fraternity fish-eating contest.
For Ney, being rooted in the neighborhood has its advantages. "You don't have to worry about DUIs or all the headaches of the South Side," he says. "You can crawl back home if you need to."