The Black Oak Tavern opened its doors on December 27, 1974. During its construction, Water Street and the current across the street parking garage were non-existent. Broad Street, now the area between Muller Place and Sidney Federal Credit Union, was a "thriving downtown bar district." There were 56 downtown bars at that time.
Since 1974, the Black Oak Tavern has gone through a few changes, with construction being done by local craftsmen and friends. In 1980, a stairway was constructed connecting the Oak to Main Street, a larger kitchen was installed, and a hand-made oak bar was crafted overnight. The wood used in the construction of the Black Oak was obtained from a 136 year old barn that was collapsing in Laurens, NY. The stained glass was purchased in Boston, MA and constructed here in Oneonta. The macrames that have been hanging on the wall for 40 years were designed and created by Weslie Eldon, a talented local artist.
Robert Shelton, aka Shelly, the founder and owner of the Black Oak Tavern, graduated from SUNY Oneonta in 1971. Shelly has made a strong effort to maintain a close relationship with the college and the Black Oak. "It has been an honor to be able to provide a venue for local and touring musicians, poets, students, and friends of the Oneonta community for over 30 years. Our music interns have worked hard to create and produce shows with better lighting, staging, and sound, as well as learn the ins and outs of the live music facet of the music industry in a real life setting."