July 13, 2012

New Collegetown Bar Promises Not to ‘Settle for Loud and Dark’

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After witnessing an exodus of bars from Collegetown this year, students returning to campus in the fall will be greeted by an addition to off-campus nightlife. A new bar, The Gates, is set to open in early August at 422 Eddy Street, near Level B.

Marian Flaxman, the bar’s owner, said The Gates will primarily serve a wide variety of cocktails, including “innovative cocktails you can’t find anywhere else.” The bar will also serve beer, hard cider and wine.

She said she hopes to create a bar “with a focus on cocktails rather than beer, a wider variety of entertainment and a newer, cleaner environment.” The bar is also planning on getting “some great musical acts,” both local and from out of town, to play in the fall. There will be a full bar, a D.J. booth, a stage for live entertainment and a private lounge for special events, she said.

“A lot of bars seem to settle for loud and dark, and we hope to do much more than that with our space,” she said in an email. “In terms of undergrad[uates] versus [graduate students], I would say I expect a blend of both. Live music attracts varied crowds, and a great bar can appeal to just about anyone.”

Flaxman, who attended Cornell as an undergraduate and a graduate student but dropped out both times, said her prior experience as the owner of downtown Ithaca’s Culture Shock has helped prepare her to open the new bar.

“The Gates is the culmination of a couple years of work, research and exploration, so I’m pretty excited to get it open,” she said.

Although many Collegetown bars — including the Royal Palms, Dino’s and Johnny O’s — have closed recently, Flaxman said that she believes there is high demand for another bar in Collegetown.

“None of those bars closed due to a lack of business, and the demand for additional bars in Collegetown is pretty clear,” she said in an email. “When you go out on a Wednesday night and find many of the bars uncomfortably packed, it’s time for another bar.”

The Gates will be the second new bar to open in Collegetown in less than six months.  Although the owners of Jack’s Grill have yet to receive a liquor licence, the eatery recently expanded to include a sports bar.

The openings follow a spate of closings that led many to question whether owning a Collegetown bar remained a financially feasible endeavor.

The Palms, according to former owner Joe Leonardo, closed due to a decrease in demand; Johnny O’s was hit with several fines, including one for serving minors, before it closed; and Dino’s reportedly closed because it was unable to renew its lease, according to Michael Maley, the bar’s former assistant manager.

But in light of the diminished options for lively nightlife, at least one bar operator has seen an increase in business.

“Certainly with the bar closings, we’ve seen more business, but a lot of later business. We’ve seen more volume in the later hours,” said Brad Weiss, operator of Level B.

Also, according to Weiss, business is challenging throughout the year because students drink at the highest rates during the three months of each semester, but the bar is still on the hook for paying a full year’s rent.

The soon-to-be location of The Gates has a history of many recent tenants. Weiss said that he has seen at least four bars open and close while he has been in business next door.

Stella’s Restaurant, Bar and Cafe, which is located on College Avenue, also reported a slight increase in business at its bar since the other bars shuttered their doors. However, General Manager Aaron Piccirilli said he does not attribute the growth to a loss of competition, but to recent efforts by Stella’s to attract more customers to its bar.

“We’ve seen a slow, steady growth in the bar and that hasn’t been affected by the closing [of other bars],” Piccirilli said.

He added that he would have been surprised if a new bar did not open, noting that establishments in Collegetown often get an influx of customers when they first open their doors.

“When you’re the new business in town, you automatically get business,” he said.

Despite the challenges of paying rent, adapting to fluctuations in demand and letting in only people of legal drinking age, The Gates could be a hit, Flaxman said.

“When I saw the space at 422 Eddy, I immediately fell in love and saw so much potential for it,” Flaxman said.

Original Author: Jonathan Dawson