New Jersey

A new tavern, a familiar face, is about to open in the former Tocci’s Tailgater’s in Bethlehem. Here’s when.

A new tavern with a familiar face at the helm will soon open at Tocci’s Tailgater’s former spot in Bethlehem.

Billy Kounoupis, who owns Billy’s Downtown Diner locations in Bethlehem and Easton, is launching “Flying Pig Tavern & Tap” early next month. The restaurant is awaiting its final city inspections at 1313 Center St., Kounoupis told Thursday.

“We hope in the first two weeks of April,” he said of the opening.

The Bethlehem site will be the second location of Flying Pig Tavern & Tap. There’s another location, which opened in 2002 in Bordentown, Burlington County, owned by Kounoupis’ cousin, Tim Kalavruzos. Kalavruzos and Kounoupis’ other cousin, Chris Kolovos, both of Morristown, New Jersey, join the regional business with Kounoupis.

Tocci’s closed permanently at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in December 2020. Owner Joe Tocci later cited the pandemic as the reason for the closure. In September 2022, the cousins ​​purchased the vacant 2,000+ square foot site and have been renovating the space ever since to make it their own.

Left to right, Billy Kounoupis of Hanover Township, Northampton County; and Tim Kalavruzos; and Chris Kolovos, both of Morristown, New Jersey. The trio own “Flying Pig Tavern & Tap,” slated to open April 2023, at 1313 Center St. in Bethlehem.

At Flying Pig Tavern & Tap, Kounoupis said the atmosphere will be “homey” with a rustic-chic vibe.

The restaurant’s name is a perfect fit, given the IronPigs baseball team and the iron Bethlehem Steel made was called “cast iron,” Kounoupis said.

“The name represents the community well,” Kounoupis said. “It pays homage to Bethlehem Steel and the roots of the Lehigh Valley.”

The partners brought a new bar at a five-figure price point with extensive bright lighting. An open ceiling concept shows exposed ductwork, rafters, and a steel beam. There are exposed bricks on the walls and exposure of the “cast iron”, Kounoupis said.

An upgraded sound system will play a variety of music. There will be over 10 flat screen televisions throughout. The trio are currently putting the finishing touches on an outdoor patio space, which is designed as a gathering place.

Similar to the New Jersey location, a “pig” mascot is also planned for the restaurant. Guests will be invited to take selfies with the massive mascot statue. Good LED lighting was important to the trio, as they wanted to encourage posting of the tavern’s food and drink on social media platforms.

The entire restaurant will accommodate more than 125 people, including 15 to 20 seated at the bar and 30 others outside. There will be an assortment of stalls and tabletop meals. On the menu, “Tex-Mex” snacks, sandwiches, a few starters and a wide range of gourmet pizzas. Think chicken and parmesan pizza with a flat, pounded chicken cutlet in the bottom instead of pizza dough.

“It will be tavern cooking in style,” Kounoupis said.

In addition, the bar will be equipped with a system of 15 beers on tap. There will be both national brands and a focus on local craft beers, changed daily. A fusion of classic and modern cocktails will also fill the drinks menu. The trio continue to have future plans to bring beer garden to the terrace, as well as live entertainment, during the warmer months.

Hours are on hold, but are expected to extend from late afternoon until around 11 p.m., seven days a week.

Kalavruzos and Kolovos have been in the catering and banqueting industry for decades, with businesses spanning New Jersey, Delaware and other states. Kounoupis is already well known for its other regional dining establishments.

He opened the first Billy’s Downtown Diner in 2000 at 10 E. Broad St. in Bethlehem. The Allentown Billy’s opened three years later near top-notch apartments and amenities. Easton Billy’s opened in October 2018 in the City Hall complex, 123 S. Third St.

Kounoupis is also currently considering a move for Billy’s Downtown Diner in West Allentown. This restaurant closed in April 2022 at its former location on the ground floor of the Alvin H. Butz Corporate Center.

At Flying Pig Tavern & Tap, co-owner Bill Kounoupis said the atmosphere will be “homey” with a rustic-chic vibe. Kounoupis of Hanover Township, Northampton County; along with business partners and cousins, Tim Kalavruzos and Chris Kolovos, both of Morristown, New Jersey, plan to open the restaurant in April 2023. The site is at 1313 Center St. in Bethlehem.

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Pamela Sroka-Holzmann can be contacted at [email protected]


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