Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Empire Brews Back?

The one thing the burgeoning Syracuse beer scene is really lacking is a real, good brewpub. And don't come steppin' to us with the Suds Factory. Just don't do it. The Empire Brewing Co. was, by all acounts, a pretty sweet beer joint. One we didn't patronize nearly enough. Perhaps that was part of its problem (though we blame the ill-advised expansion to Buffalo and Rochester). Anyway, romours of its return have abounded almost since the time of the untimely demise. Rumours on beer dork message boards are one thing, but this comes from the Syracuse Post Standard:

Armory Square was abuzz Thursday with two developments: The Quiznos on South Clinton Street closed its doors without notice and work has begun on the former Empire Brewing Co. space that's been dormant since the popular brew pub shut down more than three years ago.
Work on the Bentley-Settle building that housed Empire included welding the metal deck that hangs over the basement space that the combination brewery-restaurant occupied. There also were workers inside the old brew pub space. The workers declined comment.
Two tenants in the building at 120 Walton St. - gold and silversmith David Church and Karin Vladimer, of the One 20 Salon - said they have heard rumors the Empire Brewing Co. itself would reopen in the space. David Katleski, one of the former owners of Empire, said he, too, has heard the rumors. He declined to comment further. Rebecca Collins, a representative for the building's owners, said the work is to repair some structural problems with the building and to prepare the basement space to be reoccupied. She declined to answer questions about potential tenants.

Empire opened in 1994. It won national awards for its beers and helped popularize Armory Square as an entertainment district. Empire expanded into Rochester and Buffalo. The Buffalo location closed a year after it opened, and the Rochester location closed three weeks before the Syracuse operation shut down in September 2003. The owners blamed increased competition and the state smoking ban for some of their problems. Katleski and his partner, Michael Hodgdon, ended up filing for bankruptcy. Church and Vladimer said they would be thrilled if Empire or another equally popular business opened in the building. "I think all the tenants suffered when they closed," Church said. "Many of us ate there. Many of our clients ate there." Both, though, said they were annoyed that the work began the week before Christmas, their busiest time of year. "It's a disaster for me," Vladimer said.
"The workers are blocking part of the sidewalk and talking up the parking spaces in front of the building," Church added. Collins, who represents 120 Acquisition Co. LLC, the building's owner, said workers had to take advantage of the mild weather and begin this week. 120 Acquisition Co. LLC's major investor is the New York City real estate firm Rossrock LLC. It purchased the building in May for $1.3 million, according to city assessment records.

Well, there you have it. Make of it what you will. We have opted for the cautiously optimistic route.

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