By Matt Mattei - [email protected]

Letting go of 2015 and embracing 2016 means saying goodbye and hello to things lost and gained

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Joe Philistine, bartender and owner of Donahue’s Hourglass Lounge on South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre.
Pete G. Wilcox|Times Leader
Sabatini’s Pizza owner Lindo Sabatini talks about the construction of his new bar next to the landmark pizza restaurant on Wyoming Avenue in Exeter.
Bill Tarutis | For Sunday Dispatch
“My Billions, Mine,” presented by Robert Salazar at The Leonard Theater in Scranton for the preview of the Scranton Fringe Festival.
Pete G. Wilcox|Times Leader
Artist/vendors Paul Daugevelo, left, and Christopher Glinton of ROS-AL Floral & Antiques of Forest City at Thursday’s Scranton Fringe Festival preview at the Leonard Theater in Scranton.
Pete G. Wilcox|Times Leader

As 2015 swiftly comes to a close, it begs for reflection on what failed and what succeeded, what was lost and gained, who is no longer with us and who is with us anew. Whether the year passed in a positive or negative light for the individual is a personal matter, adorned with sentiment to remember the year in a nostalgic way or leave it behind to never be thought of again, but regardless of any opinion, it was a year that changed the landscape of Northeastern Pennsylvania along with the rest of the world, as years inevitably do.

From beloved businesses to political figures to icons of field and stage, we said goodbye to people and things near to our hearts in 2015, but we also said hello to some new, exciting and hopefully lasting entities. Here’s a look back at what we said goodbye and hello to this year.

Goodbye

Just after Halloween, Joe Philistine, owner of Donahue’s Hourglass Lounge in Wilkes-Barre, closed his doors. After 53 years of pouring drinks, the beloved bartender, who lived above his bar, served his last drink at on Nov. 7, much to the chagrin of Wilkes-Barre residents and lounge regulars, although the community came out in droves during Philistine’s last few nights in business showing support for both the proprietor and the neighborhood.

After 16 years as a mainstay at the Woodlands Inn & Resort, which included an impressive tenure as a premier dance spot in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Club Evolution was put out to pasture by ownership in favor of a new venture. What was the place to get down for people who were college aged in the early 2000s, gave way for the next evolution of Woodlands entertainment.

Wilkes-Barre mayor Tom Leighton will finish his last term in office, ending his reign of 12 years and 2 re-elections. As was reported in a Times Leader article by Jerry Lynott on Dec. 12, the incumbent is transitioning out, maintaining that his legacy is a balanced city budget, which his successor, Mayor Elect Tony George, should appreciate.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins said goodbye to two members of their coaching staff this year. Head coach of five years, John Hynes, left the organization in June to take a job at the next level as head coach of the New Jersey Devils. Earlier in December, it was announced that Mike Sullivan, who took over with Hynes’ departure, would go on to become head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

This year was also a somber year for letting go of heroes. Yankees great and hall of famer, Yogi Berra died in 2015 as did blues legend B.B. King and horror master Wes Craven. The year culminated with two departures that seemed sudden even if they were expected. Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver frontman Scott Weiland died at the age 48, succumbing to years of substance abuse and Motorhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister died at age 70.

We also said goodbye to Leonard Nimoy, perhaps better known as Spok and Whitney Houston’s daughter, Bobbi Kristina.

Hello

Sabatini’s Beer Bar and Bottle Shop opened in Exeter under the same ownership as the popular pizza joint, giving the Wyoming Valley an independently operated garden of craft beer delights. With several hundred beers that circulate through the store in both bottle and draft form, it is a sought after destination for beer snobs and curious sippers.

With the closing of Club Evolution, the Woodlands has moved forward by bringing back the past. On Nov. 6, the 25th Hour nightclub reopened its doors after 16 years in the shadows with the hope of catering to the 40 and over crowd which filled the dance floor when the club was in its first tenure. Bringing back dance hits of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, the 25th Hour aims to rekindle a nostalgic flame and bring in bigger crowds.

Wilkes-Barre Mayor Elect, Tony George will take over for Tom Leighton. Continuing a conflict that the two have engaged in for over a decade, the former city police chief and future mayor has come out of the gates swinging, accusing his predecessor of presenting an unsound budget for 2016.

Taking over for departed coach Sullivan, new Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins head coach, Clark Donatelli has arrived from Wheeling with the intention of maintaining a system that has been working. The Penguins were in first place in the Atlantic Division when Donatelli took the reigns, and he comes highly recommended from former coaches Sullivan and John Hynes.

New festivals were abundant in Northeastern Pennsylvania in 2015. The inaugural NEPA Yoga Festival took place on Sept. 12 at Montage Mountain under the direction of Near Me Yoga practitioner Chelsea Manganaro and with the support of the local wellness community. The Disco Biscuits summer music festival, Camp Bisco, arrived at the pavilion as well, beginning what will be, at least, a three year run, and the Scranton Fringe Festival gave independent playwrights an opportunity to display their work, showing how progressive and artfully minded Scranton can be.

Embracing what departed and welcoming what arrived in 2015

By Matt Mattei

[email protected]

Joe Philistine, bartender and owner of Donahue’s Hourglass Lounge on South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/web1_joephilistine02.jpgJoe Philistine, bartender and owner of Donahue’s Hourglass Lounge on South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre. Pete G. Wilcox|Times Leader

Sabatini’s Pizza owner Lindo Sabatini talks about the construction of his new bar next to the landmark pizza restaurant on Wyoming Avenue in Exeter.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/web1_SD_Sabatinis_1.jpgSabatini’s Pizza owner Lindo Sabatini talks about the construction of his new bar next to the landmark pizza restaurant on Wyoming Avenue in Exeter. Bill Tarutis | For Sunday Dispatch

“My Billions, Mine,” presented by Robert Salazar at The Leonard Theater in Scranton for the preview of the Scranton Fringe Festival.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/web1_fringe03.jpg“My Billions, Mine,” presented by Robert Salazar at The Leonard Theater in Scranton for the preview of the Scranton Fringe Festival. Pete G. Wilcox|Times Leader

Artist/vendors Paul Daugevelo, left, and Christopher Glinton of ROS-AL Floral & Antiques of Forest City at Thursday’s Scranton Fringe Festival preview at the Leonard Theater in Scranton.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/web1_fringe07.jpgArtist/vendors Paul Daugevelo, left, and Christopher Glinton of ROS-AL Floral & Antiques of Forest City at Thursday’s Scranton Fringe Festival preview at the Leonard Theater in Scranton. Pete G. Wilcox|Times Leader
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Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or [email protected]