Hanover tavern is as real as it gets.
So, a guy walks into a bar… and finds himself surrounded by blue-collar workers drinking blue-collar beers.
The Franklin House Tavern in Hanover can best be described as a “neighborhood bar.” Patrons of the more than 50-year-old bar have been coming for the cheap food and even cheaper beer since they’ve been old enough to drink.
People have drank away their sorrows and toasted in celebration at the Franklin House. Before there were craft beers, before there were gastropubs and before there were beer apps for your phone, there was the neighborhood bar.
Having moved around a lot, I’ve never actually had my own neighborhood bar. There have been bars I’ve gone to a lot, but I wouldn’t consider them part of the neighborhood – mainly because they were all new. There was no history; no tradition.
But that’s not the case with the Franklin House. The bar has been serving its community since the 1940s. It was purchased in 1959 by the father and father-in-law of current owners Barry and Ronda Zeigler. Barry purchased the bar from his father in the 1970s.
Eventually, Ronda became the manager and co-owner of the tavern with her husband.
My wife and I stopped by the tavern on our way through Hanover. The brick- and aluminum siding-covered bar looks exactly like every other bar you’ve passed without a second look. But inside those walls are stories and histories far more interesting than anything you’ll find at a new craft beer bar.
Ronda describes the bar as a “working person’s place.” The vast majority of people stopping in the Franklin House either work or live in Hanover.
“We have a very strong following of regulars. Every day, when they step in the door, we already know what they’re going to have,” Zeigler says. “They are not people who are overly interested in the craft beer market.”
The tavern features a large horseshoe-shaped bar with six beers on tap. Craft beer? Not here. You have a choice of Coors Original, Coors Light, Miller Lite, Foster’s, Rolling Rock, Yuengling and a couple other bottles. A few regulars were around the bar while my wife and I ordered beers. We were served by an attentive and polite bartender, who checked in with us throughout the night, making sure our glasses were never empty for long.
Most of the regulars drank beer, but one woman was drinking from a tropical-flavored frozen pouch. It looked like an adult Capri Sun, and I wanted it badly. But I stuck with the Yuengling out of fear of strange looks from the guys around the bar.
The Franklin House is very old-school. You can buy candy bars for 85¢, red beet eggs for 50¢ and a hamburger for $3.50. The most expensive item on the menu is $9.75 – a giant plate of hot beef covered in gravy and served with fries. It’s a favorite among regulars of the bar, Ronda says.
The wood-paneled walls are covered with beer signs and notices. Cigarette smoke hangs thick in the air. NASCAR, a gospel music infomercial and a crime TV show were on the TVs. You can also play pool, toss darts, buy scratch-off lottery tickets or participate in the newly acquired daily drawings and pull-tab gaming.
The addition of small games of chance has added a new dimension to the old bar, Ronda says.
In April, the Franklin House became the first bar in York County to receive a gaming license. A month earlier, the Zeiglers’ other bar – the Midway Tavern in Conewago Township, Adams County – received the first gaming license in the entire state.
Ronda says it was a huge boon for her and her husband to get the licenses. Barry had been petitioning the state legislature to allow bars to have small games of chance since 1988. The tavern’s regulars have really enjoyed being able to eat, drink, smoke and gamble all in one location.
“When they knew we were applying, they were very anxious for us to get approved and to get our license so that they could gamble here,” Ronda says. “That way, they didn’t have to go anywhere.”
The vast majority of bars I go to are manicured. They don’t allow smoking, they have a lot of craft beer and are fairly gentrified.
But my trip to the Franklin House didn’t feel like I was slumming – it felt like I was in the most authentic place imaginable.
This bar doesn’t try to appeal to everyone. It’s a neighborhood bar that serves beer, liquor and food. And they do it with a smile.
What else do you need?
• 300 North Franklin Street, Hanover; 632-3924
• Monday-Saturday 7 a.m.-1:30 a.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
• Wheelchair accessible, credit cards accepted, smoking permitted, reservations not accepted, alcohol served, takeout available