Saturday, January 7, 2017

Can Troy's restaurant boom endure in 2017?

An artistic rendition of an aerial view of central Troy, New York

Revival efforts in many cities often begin in the same way some people think can lead to romance. In other words, the way to a city’s heart can be through its stomach.

A large part of Troy’s latest renaissance lies in the explosion in the number of eating and drinking venues as well as the number of places creating adult beverages. Which prompts a question: Can a city of less than 50,000 residents, situated on the eastern edge of the nation’s No. 67 Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) of less than 1 million people, financially sustain such a boom?

It’s debatable. A frequently cited 1999 analysis from Ohio State University puts the failure rate of restaurants within their first 12 months in business at about 60%, jumping to 80% before the fifth year. However, that figure has largely been disputed by subsequent studies. In 2005, for example, the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly put the national failure rate at “a relatively modest” 26%.

Among the things Troy’s eating-and-drinking community has going for it are its variety and student/blue collar/upscale balance and its relatively low pricing, very strong pluses in a city with three colleges and an international student demographic of abut 22,000 fulltime undergraduate students and many more in graduate and part-time study.

That and the fact that despite its never-ending municipal financial woes and hefty 2017 property tax increase looming, the relatively cheap housing and commercial property prices keep attracting entrepreneurial young people whose sandwich shops, cafes and such keep replacing the 26 to 50% of similar places that go belly-up each year in the normal courses of business.

In New York's Greater Capital Region in 2016, in fact, the ratio of restaurant openings to closings was about 2½ to 1. In Troy itself, the ratio was roughly the same, although the counting is made a tad difficult by then fact the Troy Kitchen is a multi-venue food court where there is some short-term ongoing leave-and-replace activity going on.

The 2016 openings:

  • Troy Kitchen, 77 Congress St. (a bar and lounge operated by Troy Kitchen, plus Troy Lobster, K-Plate, Magdalena’s, Butter & Sugar Co., Stacks) 
  • Plumb Oyster Bar, 15 2nd St. (oysters, specialty seafood, grilled cheese sandwiches) 
  • Testo’s, 769 Pawling Ave., an offshoot of the Lansingburgh original (Italian-American in a renovated former Chubby’s Subs building) 
  • Sunhee’s Farm and Market, 95-97 Ferry St. (Korean food and market) 
  • Donna’s Italian and American, One 14th St. (as its sign says, Italian and American, rather than the usual hyphenated style) 
  • The Beer Diviner Taproom, 481 Broadway (beers from the microbrewery in Cherry Plains, Rensselaer County; light fare) 
  • Coco Mango’s, 72 Congress St.
  • Next Level at The Ruck. 104 3rd St. (fusion menu in an upstairs expansion of a beer pub) 
  • Unagi Sushi, 118 4th St. (traditional sushi, sashimi) 
  • Wolff’s Biergarten, 2 King St. (traditional German-style link in a local chain)
The few 2016 closures:
  • Minnissale’s Wine Cellar Café  (succeeded by Donna's)
  • The Brown Bag
  • Chester’s Smokehouse Restaurant 
  • Infinity Café
  • The Malt Room 
  • Ironwoods Sports Bar and Indoor Golf
This, it must be emphasized, is for a mere 12-month period. Looking just ahead, a Sonic Drive-In will open in the Hudson Commons shopping strip on Hoosick Street; Bradley’s Tavern, 28 4th St., is to reopen this year -- not necessarily under that name -- under new owners Vic Christopher and Heather LaVine, who just opened Donna’s the successor to Minnisale’s.

Given the record of the past half-dozen years, that no doubt is only the tip of the dining iceberg, Think not? Going back just a year or two we see the same wide range of options that opened throughout the city.

Some examples:

  • Rare Form Brewing Co., 90 Congress St. (a microbrewery and taproom) 
  • The Shop, 4th and Congress streets (a rustic gastropub in a former century-old hardware store) 
  • The Hill at Muza, Congress and 15th streets on the edge of the RPI campus ( a year-round outdoor beer garden behind an Eastern European restaurant) 
  • Koni’s Broadway Kafé, 357 Broadway (a casual spot serving “American-style” signature sandwiches) 
  • O’Brien’s Public House, 43 3rd St. (an Irish-style pub in the former Trojan Hotel) 
  • Psychedelicatessan, 275 River Street opposite Brown’s Brewing (a modern deli space with everything from NHY-style bagels to smoothies and specialty sandwiches) 
  • Slidin’ Dirty, 9 1st St. (a full-service offshoot of the food truck of the same name) 
  • The Whistling Kettle, 254 Broadway (a larger-sized contemporary tearoom than its Ballston Spa sister operation) 
One of the lingering concerns about the continuing commercial viability of Troy is the 14.55% property tax increase that went into effect this year. (I received my bill this week; did you?)

However steep that number may seem at first glance, it should have little effect on rental property even if some landlords try to pass along the entire increase to tenants. The 2017 city tax bill on an assessment of $100,000 will rise by just $176 to $1,383 compared to the 2016 levy.

Unless restaurateurs' landlords are greedy sorts, that should hardly cause a ripple.
• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook

No comments:

Post a Comment