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Waynesville’s once-beloved O’Malley’s up for sale

RBC Bank is looking to offload the building that once housed O’Malley’s On Main Pub and Grill in Waynesville from its list of assets.

A ‘for-sale’ sign has been posted in the window of the vacant building following a bank foreclosure last fall. The once-popular downtown bar had changed management at least four times in six years, leading to a slow but steady decline in business and opening the door for new competition in Waynesville’s bar scene to gain a toehold. O’Malley’s was ultimately forced to close after the building owner failed to make mortgage payments and fell into foreclosure, ending a 20-year run.

At least five people have viewed the more than 5,000-square-foot property, said Jason Burke, a Realtor with Whitney Commercial Real Estate in Asheville.

“I’ve had a lot of interest,” Burke said. “I think it will sell soon.”

He added that two offers have already been made. The asking price is $428,000 for the three-story building, which includes an upstairs apartment and basement. The building and business together sold for $875,000 in 2005, but O’Malley’s was still a thriving business at that time.

Buffy Phillips, executive director of the Downtown Waynesville Association, said the business is a more difficult sale because a new owner must commit to purchasing the while building rather than leasing it.

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“I think the financial end of it is holding it up,” Phillips said.

Phillips said she would like to see a restaurant occupy the space and believes it could be profitable. “If there is something unusual, if there is a different idea, if there is different food choices than we already have, then sure,” she said, adding that she has approached several people about the vacancy.

Waynesville already has “a couple of really good bars that have excellent food,” Phillips said about the idea of opening the business as a bar once again.

Tourism officials hope the anchor storefront doesn’t remain vacant but instead is put to work creating jobs and generating additional revenue in the county.

“O’Malley’s is a great space for a new business on Main Street,” said Cece Hipps, president of the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce, in an email. “The space will require that the business have both financial resources to purchase and time to up fit the space to their needs.”


Cumbersome baggage

Before the building landed in foreclosure, it was home to O’Malley’s On Main for 20 years.

During its early years, the bar filled a niche. It was the one and only bar on Main Street, a community gathering spot with a genuine Cheer’s atmosphere. A spate of management changes set off a decline in customer service, however. Meanwhile, what was once the only game in town began facing competition scene from a burgeoning downtown bar scene with establishments like Tipping Point Tavern, The Wineseller, The Sweet Onion, The Gateway Club and Frog’s Leap.

By the time Lisa Bessent leased the business in 2008, it was already on the way out.

“It had a lot of bad reputation to overcome,” Bessent said. “It was just a struggle the whole time.”

During her tenure as owner of O’Malley’s, Bessent said she never once wrote herself a paycheck but would bartend or wait tables if she needed petty cash. Everything else went back into the business, she said.

“I was not making any money at O’Malley’s,” Bessent said. “I’d never ran a business in my life.”

Bessent attributed part of the bar’s poor bottom line to competition from Hurley’s Creekside Dining & Rhum Bar, which captured customers from the nearby ski resort in Maggie Valley who previously traveled to Waynesville in search of a bar.

Regardless of the actual business, the then-building owners Eric and Jon Mostrom of Minnesota defaulted on their loan to RBC Bank, which had lent them $510,000 in late 2005. The vast majority of that loan — more than $420,000 — had still not been repaid by March of last year. So, the bank started the foreclosure process and later purchased the building at a discount on the courthouse steps.

When the bank announced that it was foreclosing on the building, Bessent decided to take what money she had left and move on rather than continue to sink everything she had into the business while waiting for the final foreclosure date.

The foreclosure was Bessent’s lifeboat off of a sinking ship. It was the “perfect out,” she said.

Despite her luck the first time around, Bessent, currently a bartender at The Gateway Club, would like to run a bar again in the future.

“I would really like the opportunity to run another business like that,” she said. “Now, I have experience under my belt.”

However, she said the name O’Malley’s is stained and brings with it cumbersome baggage.

“I don’t know if putting O’Malley’s back in there would be a good idea at all,” Bessent said.

The things she enjoyed most, Bessent said, was being able to socialize with people and escaping the regular 9-to-5 day.

“It was like my living room,” she said. “I really miss that part of it.”

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