One of Maryville’s most popular hangout spots for more than 40 years suddenly collapsed on the morning of Sept. 1, 2011. The owner of The Pub, Jeff Zeller, has put a lot of time and money into rebuilding one of the most recognizable buildings in Maryville, working to preserve the history behind a building that’s more than a century old.
The cause of the collapse has yet to be confirmed, but many in the Maryville area have their own idea of how it collapsed. Some people believe it was caused by a fire or that it was just because it was an old building. The actual cause of the disaster is a little more complex than that.
The building that now houses The Pub itself is reportedly more than 100 years old and has been home to many different types of businesses, including a two story hotel and Mexican restaurant at one point.
“It was built in 1908 I believe,” Zeller said. “[City officials] are not exactly sure, because the records aren’t really complete or accurate, but it used to be a two story building, and there used to be a hotel on the square. There are thoughts that this might have been the hotel on the square. But, I’m not exactly sure, nobody knows when it went from being a two story to a one story building. It has been a lot of things in its life.”
Leading up to the eventual collapse, Zeller was confident in the structural soundness of the building, even with the knowledge that the building was 100 years old.
“At the time we knew when it was built and everything. It was structurally sound and it wasn’t moving anywhere,” Zeller explained. “But, it had a hundred years of deterioration. So it had some things that needed to be done. It was a bar for 30 to 40 years before it collapsed. That tends to be a little rough on buildings. Sometime in the ’70s a flash fire in the basement had charred some of the rafters and it was inspected after that. The inspector said it was fine. It had some patch job repairs, but that was the extent of it.”
During the summer of 2011, the current leasee of The Pub was moving out and Zeller had returned to the building to inspect it and change the locks. During his inspection, he noticed a hole in the south wall of the building in the basement where someone had purportedly backed or ran into the wall with a vehicle.
“You couldn’t see the damage from the outside because there was sheet metal on the outside to cover the brick,” Zeller said. “There was a guard rail that someone ran into, and it was right where a post was in the ground. The post broke off and the whole guard rail flexed-in and hit the building, knocking a hole into it.”
On the morning of Sept 1 2011, the south wall of The Pub collapsed, along with the entire roof of the building. No one was inside or injured by the collapse, as employees of Bank of the Midwest heard some strange noises coming from the building shortly before it collapsed and made certain the building was empty.
“Apparently before a building collapses like that it makes a lot of odd noises because everything in it is shifting and moving,” Zeller said. “Luckily they [Bank of Midwest personnel] had moved all their cars and they had everything out of the way and all the people away from it.”
Zeller wasn’t even in town when The Pub’s south wall collapsed and wasn’t all that surprised when he received word about the incident. Zeller’s insurance agency was supposed to have someone come out and inspect the building following his report about the hole in the wall. That never happened.
After waiting around a week, Zeller later found out that inspectors from his insurance agency had been sent out to the East Coast to help with inspections following damages caused by the catastrophic storm, Hurricane Sandy. The day before the collapse, Zeller was told someone was being sent out to look at the building, but by then it was too late.
Luckily, Zeller was already planning to do some remodeling and structural work on the building. The collapse just happened to expedite the situation and “it became a drastically larger remodel,” Zeller said.
“Maybe a little less than 50 percent of the original building is still here,” Zeller said. “The whole front facade is all original building. I tried to salvage as much as we could. We have the small amount of brick next to the stage that’s part of the original stuff, and the paw print that’s been painted up there has been there since the ’90s. We tried to salvage little things like that, that people can be like, ‘oh yea, I remember that.’ ”
Before the restructure of the building began, however, there were talks about demolishing the building rather than rebuilding it.
Demolishing the building and selling the lot would have been the cheaper option for Zeller, but he decided to take the more costly route of rebuilding and remodeling the The Pub into what it is today.
There’s a lot of history surrounding The Pub and the building that houses it, and that’s not something Zeller just wanted to throw away.
“They could have just demoed the rest of the building and sold an empty lot on Main Street, or I could try and rebuild it and make it back into whatever,” Zeller said. “It was a blank slate at that time. The whole front was predominantly intact, there was very little that had to be done to it. And that’s kind of the Maryville streetscape that was pretty well recognizable. A lot of alumni remember The Pub, that’s where they went since the ’70s. There were a lot of people that after I reopened it that came in and we’re like, ‘I’m really glad you did this. My wife and I met at the pub’…different things like that.”
With The Pub being remodeled, other bars in the area started to make changes, according to Zeller. Bars in Maryville had become stagnant and people “didn’t feel comfortable in any of the bars because they had gotten so dingy.”
Maryville’s nightlife “had been dwindling quite a bit just because everything was that old, smoky, dark, kind of sticky floored bar scene in all the bars.”
Zeller himself is a Northwest alumni and was happy to see the bars in the area start funneling money back into their own businesses to improve them.
Zeller describes this time period as a “renaissance of the bars” in Maryville. The Palms went through a major remodeling before it was sold to current owner Erik Schreiber in 2014. Burny’s added the Upper Deck, which added something new to the bar scene in Maryville.
Northwest alumni Derek Rogers had never set foot in Burny’s until the Upper Deck opened. Once it opened, it became his new favorite spot to hangout in Maryville.
“It gave me the feeling of being out on the porch and cracking a cold one on a nice spring day,” Rogers said.
The bars in the area realized that if they didn’t fix up their venues and modernize a bit, they would have lost a lot of their clientele.
Zeller believes these changes have brought an increased interest back into Maryville’s nightlife, even if bars aren’t as popular in the area today as they were back in the ’90s and early 2000s.
The decrease in popularity in Maryville’s bars is attributed to a number of factors. The economy and changes in the social landscape tend to be the biggest culprits.
Back when Zeller attended Northwest, tuition was much cheaper and minor in possession laws hadn’t been updated to include the “possession by consumption” clause yet.
With the increase in tuition, students are less likely to “blow off a class” to go out during the week, Zeller said. The stricter laws around underage drinking are also making students more aware of the actions they take and the consequences that could be involved.
“You could be drunk as a skunk walking down the sidewalk and as long as you weren’t holding a beer or kicking over trash cans and doing somethings stupid like that you were completely fine,” Zeller said. “Now it’s a little different and people have to be safer.”
The current status of Maryville’s bar scene is pretty good, however. Many bars in the area have been putting a bigger focus on live entertainment.
Schreiber previously told the Maryville Daily Forum that his vision for The Palms was to “be a legitimate music venue.“
“The positioning of Maryville between Omaha, Des Moines and Kansas City, we’re dead center,” Schreiber said. “There are major touring acts that come by here every day within two hours. There’s no reason that they can’t stop here. It’s just a matter of giving them the environment.”
Zeller agrees that live entertainment is helping the bars in Maryville reacquire college students’ interests. In addition to The Palms, Burny’s also does live music on its second floor, and The Pub has its own stage for a multitude of different entertainment options.
“It’s great for local artists, and it brings more interest into the bars, which is always great,” explained Zeller. “If one bar does well, they all kind of do well because there’s a lot of travel between the bars.”
The future of what Maryville’s bar scene looks like is uncertain, but Zeller is happy with the situation at hand.
“Obviously everything is going to evolve, so we’ll have to see what goes on,” Zeller said. “Whatever’s happening, you have to be able to adapt to work with whatever’s going on.”