By JoANNE VIVIANO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- As a curious boy growing up in Smoky Hollow, Robert Arroyo often spent time exploring the many run-down corners of the Baltimore & amp; Ohio Railroad station.
Decades later, as a contractor, he spent hours rebuilding those corners into the B & amp;O Station Brewery and Restaurant.
Ownership of the Mahoning Avenue business somewhat fell into the lap of Arroyo and his partner, Joe Pedaline -- also a lifetime Youngstown resident.
It was a welcome turn of events. But with the ownership came a snafu.
When two separate restaurateurs pulled out, the partners took over operation of the restaurant. Then, shortly before the place was to open, the brewing company left -- agreeing to sell out to Arroyo and Pedaline. But with the brewers went the progress that had been made toward getting state liquor licenses and federal approval to brew beer.
Visitors to the brewery couldn't get a beer. And Arroyo and Pedaline had to start the two-tiered process from square one.
"We're just staying below water," Arroyo said. "We're not drowning yet, but we're not above water."
He said he and his partner have made two applications for needed permits. One -- to the state -- requests licenses to sell alcohol and manufacture beer. Also required is approval by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms of a "notice of intent to brew."
In the meantime, the B & amp;O has been granted temporary permits through the city -- which owns the 1906 building and property -- to sell beer on certain Fridays and Saturdays. Such a license will permit service again Sept. 13 and 14.
At the state level, license applications are in order, said Ohio Division of Liquor Control spokesman Matt Mullins. However, the state must wait for the federal approval before releasing the licenses, Mullins said. Once the federal approval is received, he said, state licenses should be issued quickly.
Jerry Cajka, area supervisor at the Cleveland office of the ATF, confirmed that the B & amp;O had filed a notice of intent to brew, but he would not comment on its status. He said approvals can go through quickly or be held up because of paperwork corrections and inspections.
In the meantime, copper brewing tanks sit empty.
Arroyo shows the 23 types of grains he and Pedaline have stocked for brewing. Besides beer, they hope to make sodas such as root beer, sarsaparilla and ginger ale.
As for the beer, Arroyo said the brewery will offer seven types with six regularly on tap and a seventh that changes monthly.
Come for the food
Until then, customers visit the B & amp;O for its food. Chef Robert Malone, who hails from a major Las Vegas hotel, offers a high-end menu.
Try the bruschetta or a "Jo Jo fries" appetizer, topped with bacon, Tillamook cheddar and scallions and accompanied by roasted garlic mayonnaise, wasabi ketchup and gorgonzola cream.
For lunch, entrees include "fall-off-the-bone" baby-back ribs, bacon-wrapped turkey medallions, blackened salmon, and fettuccine with a roasted garlic fondue sauce and asiago cheese. Sandwich and entree prices range from $6.50 to $8.50.
The business employs 50 people, and Arroyo said he hopes to have it listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The restaurant features an upper-level stage area, where jazz and piano entertainers will perform. Arroyo envisions comedy shows in the future.
A Youngstown Room seats 100 for banquets and a Tunnel room holds about 20 for private seating and will feature a wine cellar.
Guests who feel wanderlust can even board a train. The restaurant connects to the Amtrak station, which picks up passengers on its routes between Chicago and New York City.
The B & amp;O Station Brewery & amp; Restaurant marks four years of work by the city to land a viable tenant in the rail station, which last operated as a restaurant in 1996. Pedaline and Arroyo had put up $200,000 in cash they would forfeit to the city if that amount of investment was not made into the building. Jeffrey L. Chagnot, city development director, said the goal was exceeded and the partners put more than $300,000 into the building.
Under a deal with the city, the partners may buy the property from the city for $50,000. If the sale isn't made and the venture fails, the building remains under city ownership.
Chagnot said that the Ohio Brewing Co. of Niles -- owned by Michael G. and Christopher Verich -- backed out of the project and that Pedaline and Arroyo are in the process of purchasing the B & amp;O brewery operations from them.
Before that change, two lease agreements had been made with other restaurateurs, Chagnot said. Neither moved forward, so the leases were terminated and Pedaline and Arroyo came in.
Pedaline has lived on the city's East Side his whole life and has watched attempts to revitalize the city. He hopes to offer special events and take advantage of the station's riverside location.
"I've been hoping for so long," he said. "We're going to do our part. The city's got to do its part."