Ever since they caught wind that their go-to neighborhood bar, Giordano Bros., might close, Rudi Rughoonundon and Ollie Pender realized they weren’t ready to let it go.
And so, when Giordano Bros. announced its closure officially in February, the two bar-goers shook hands and decided to go into business together.
“It’s been a dream of mine to open a bar,” said Rughoonundon, a computer-chip engineer who, like Pender, quickly became a regular at the Pittsburgh-themed sports bar when it first opened 10 years ago at 3108 16th St., near Valencia Street.
Rughoonundon and Pender have been neighbors in the Mission District since the early 2000s, but met and became friends over beers and hoagies and the hum of ballgames on screens around the bar.
And, even though they have no connection to Pittsburgh and have never even visited — Rughoonundon was born in the United Kingdom and raised in Mauritius, and Pender hails from Ireland — Rudi’s Sports Bar and Restaurant will maintain its ties to Pennsylvania’s second-largest city.
“We both feel like they had a good product here; they had a good following,” Pender said. “And a lot of people come from the East Bay and all around just to be here for the games.”
Much of Giordano’s Pirates and Steelers decor, staff, and even its menu, featuring french fry-filled sandwiches, will remain intact, and Rughoonundon and Pender expect the Pittsburgh-loving regulars to return.
“The Pittsburgh crowd that comes in here, they are like, basically, a big family,” Rughoonundon said. But he said he wants to make it clear there will be some changes: The 49ers will be featured more prominently at Rudi’s, and a hamburger is making its debut on the new menu.
Eventually, he and Pender plan to introduce a full English breakfast — eggs, sausage, grilled tomato, beans and toast — as a small homage to their birthplaces.
Pender will manage the day-to-day operations of the bar; he is an industry veteran who trained as a chef in Ireland, managed Murphy’s Pub downtown for 20 years, and has co-owned Scarlet Lounge in the Richmond District for five years. Rughoonundon, meanwhile, says he is the “money guy.” He will be at the bar like the old days, just under a bit more pressure.
Giordano Bros. first opened in North Beach in 2004, but eventually shifted its operations to the Mission location, which opened in 2011 in the former Ti Couz location. In February, the owner gave it up to spend more time with his family, and Rughoonundon and Pender have been at work ever since, getting the new place up and running.
The transfer of ownership to the two mild-mannered 50-year-olds may also bring a shift in the dynamic of the historically bro-centric bar run by huffy staff.
“They’re friends of ours,” said Jeff Jordan, who originally founded Giordano Bros. with his wife and said he’s known Rughoonundon and Pender for 10 years. “It’s just nice that it’s in good hands and we’re happy for neighborhood people to carry on the legacy.”
The soft opening of Rudi’s Sports Bar and Restaurant is Thursday evening. The bar will be open Mondays through Fridays from 4 to 11 p.m., and weekends from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.