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Northport's famed Gunther's Tap Room, gutted by fire, to reopen, owners say

Co-owners Brad Vassallo, seated left, and Eddie McGrath,

Co-owners Brad Vassallo, seated left, and Eddie McGrath, seated right, speak to passersby in front of Gunther's Tap Room in Northport on May 24, 2017, after a fire gutted the interior of the historic bar and damaged apartments in the building. Credit: Steve Pfost

Gunther's Tap Room is back.

The owners of the famed Northport eatery where Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac hung out plan to reopen on Thursday, more than a year after fire gutted the Main Street bar.

“We’re ordering everything and shooting to open the doors regular hours like any other Thursday,” co-owner Brad Vassallo said Wednesday. Gunther’s normally opens at 10 a.m., he said.

A fire on May 23, 2017, destroyed Gunther's and damaged adjoining apartments. Investigators have said they believe an outdated electrical system caused the fire.

The electrical system has been replaced and updated and the rest of the building's infrastructure repairs, including plumbing, gas lines and insulation, have been completed.

The Suffolk County Health Department on Tuesday conducted an inspection. The rebuilt bar passed the inspection, giving  Vassallo and co-owner Eddie McGrath approval to reopen.

“It’s been quite a process,” Vassallo said. “The emotions have been up and down, but it’s exciting. We’re so happy it’s come together.”

Kerouac, a poet and author of the classic novel "On the Road," was a patron of Gunther’s when he lived nearby in the 1950s and '60s.

Known for its dim lighting, cash-only service and a vintage cigarette machine, the Tap Room was such a community treasure that a few months after the fire, former employees and regulars held a fundraiser to help rebuild it.

“It’s been a real community effort, so many people have donated their time, helped with money donations, materials,” Vassallo said. “It’s just been amazing.”

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