Doubling the space, adding a self-serve beer wall, and providing international entertainment might just put Pizza 151 on the map for craft beer destinations, owner Eric LeVan says.
“It’s a completely different look and feel; we’re very competitive for craft beers,” LeVan said during an interview Tuesday. “I think football season is going to bring in quite a bit. The Tap Room at 151 has 14 taps of all craft beer, and we’ll have bottles of domestic beer as well.”
Not to leave the cider lovers out, the Batavia Tops Plaza restaurant will have one cider available and he is considering some craft seltzers. Though he’s not a big drinker, LeVan has sampled some product and said the cider is pretty good.
“It’s literally like drinking an apple soda.”
LeVan had a partnership when the site was Mark’s Pizzeria in 2012. He later broke out on his own and renamed the place Pizza 151 a day after the Super Bowl in 2019. The entrepreneur owns another branch in North Chili and is co-owner of Bushido Martial Arts in Batavia.
LeVan more recently opted to lease 3,000 more square feet in the adjacent former Family Video site. It has made the space “nice and open” with a more expansive dining area that went from accommodating 20 to at least 100 people, he said.
There are seven televisions, including one with an 85-inch screen, a dine-in menu with about five or six yummy appetizers coming this fall (think soft chewy Bavarian pretzels), and a wireless dartboard system. Not your grandfather’s dartboard game, this one has two cameras that show the player and the board to prevent cheating. Patrons can try their luck with a local or someone across the globe, LeVan said.
“You can see anyone from the world,“ he said, adding that he just played such a game. “He was from Belgium.”
Now for the Tap Room at 151. Set up with an IPourIt draft technology system, diners select from 14 craft beers, which will be on a changing rotational basis per season. The current summer ale will soon be replaced with an Oktoberfest brew. According to IPourIt’s website, Pizza 151 is only one of three places in New York with the same self-serve system and the only one in this region.
Customers scan their driver’s license to ensure proof of age, get a bracelet, then scan that to make a selection. Contrary to other establishments LeVan has experienced, “nobody’s pushing you out the door,” he said.
“You’ll have the freedom of ordering how much you want,” he said. “And you can try two ounces of beer to get the taste. (The customer) pours their own beer.”
It’s the type of business for craft beer enthusiasts, he said, versus those who just want to drink. Quality versus quantity type of set-up. That’s not to say you can’t purchase quantity.
“We can make a crowler of any beer on tap,” he said. “(Patrons) can see the whole process. We’ll have some pre-canned of our bestsellers.”
He’s working on offering some tastings to include other area breweries, such as Eli Fish, Rohrbach Brewing Company, and Three Heads Brewing. A beer wall craft beer from Eli Fish, in downtown Batavia, would be a perfect addition, he said.
Two other embellishments are just as enticing, LeVan said. Instead of buying a 20-ounce pop, he now has a Pepsi fountain machine. And all of that drinking may steer people into two nice new bathrooms near the dining area. The rooms each have a TV so that nobody has to miss the action of a game. Recycled kegs for urinals and beer tap handles at the sink are bound to be a topic of conversation.
LeVan expects to hire more people as the pizza shop/taproom gets busier. He already hired a former employee who has beer lessons and expertise under his belt to serve as taproom manager. It has all come together in a fitting environment, LeVan said.
“This is a nichey little area for pizza and beer,” he said.
Pizza 151 is 8351 Lewiston Rd. to the left of the Tops gas station. It is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Sunday, and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Check it out at pizza151.com or call (585) 344-2400.
Photos by Howard Owens