A second location of Ithaca Beer Co. will be the first to occupy the new Student Agencies Building that will open next fall, settling into the Collegetown corner that previously held the classic Collegetown Bagels.
At its new location, Ithaca Beer Co. will open for sit-down dining for lunch and dinner. Half of the seating will be outdoors, which will be a smaller version of the beer garden at their current location, its design drawing inspiration from pubs and beer halls.
“[The patio] is really one of the prime reasons we wanted that corner, because we really value the outdoors,” said Mari Mitchell ’98 M.A.’01, co-owner and co-founder of Ithaca Beer Co. “[It’s a place] where you can go outside and kind of watch the world go by and have a drink, take a break for a moment.”
The Ithaca Beer Co. flagship location is just south of Buttermilk Falls and includes both a brewery and a farm-to-table restaurant called the Taproom, which uses 60 percent of its produce from their on-site farm. The brewery offers a variety of different beer flavors, from Flower Power to Cascazilla, along with root beer and ginger beer.
Ithaca Beer Co.’s farm brewery license, required for any business to operate a brewery in New York State, now makes it easier to open additional locations.
According to Mari Mitchell, many factors motivated the co-owners to open this new location. With a location in Collegetown, the Mitchells can be even more accessible to students and closer to their son, who attends Cornell.
While the Mitchells have long dreamed of this opportunity, they said they are also nervous because of the pandemic and because many restaurants have, in general, struggled to stay open in the area.
The pandemic rattled Ithaca’s restaurant industry, with virus restrictions and limited indoor dining. Most restaurants have been forced to adapt, introducing Plexiglass screens, heated outdoor seating and extended takeout options.
“It’s certainly a nerve-wracking time to be doing something like this, but we were figuring that at some point … COVID will pass and get us back to some level of normalcy,” Dan Mitchell said. “I believe that the restaurant industry will come back, and when it does, we’ll be in a good spot and we’ll be able to take off from there.”
Ithaca Beer Co.’s management said they realize the risk of the virus may linger in the fall. The new location will include booths and will install colorful Plexiglas.
Student Agencies, a student-run corporation that owns the Student Agencies Building, first began renovating the building last June, and only had 14 months to reopen for the August opening date — demolishing the Chacona Block building once home to Collegetown Bagels. If Student Agencies misses this opening date, they will have lost the ability to pre-lease the 64 residential apartments for the upcoming fall semester.
“The pandemic only made [our schedule] more challenging, but the great news is I think through hard work and good luck, we are on schedule and on budget for an August opening,” said Kyle Karnes ’91, the CEO of Student Agencies.
When Student Agencies first announced their plans to renovate this building back in 2017, the company faced push back from students and community members. Many wanted to designate the building as a historical landmark. It was only through a 6-5 vote, with Mayor Myrick ’09 breaking the tie, did the city vote against designation.
Karnes said that the building itself is important to Student Agencies and remains an iconic corner for the community. For students reminiscing about the old CTB location, the Mitchells ask that the Cornell community give their new restaurant a chance.
“It’s the right location for Ithaca Beer to be and we kind of feel like it will bring a lot of excitement to that corner,” Mari Mitchell said. “I think it’s going to encourage a lot of outdoor eating with Collegetown Bagels across the street and just liven up that whole area, which will be really beneficial.”