Schenectady County

Van Dyck ready to make its debut

After undergoing more than $500,000 in renovatons, a jazzed up Van Dyck will debut Sunday with a per

After undergoing more than $500,000 in renovatons, a jazzed up Van Dyck will debut Sunday with a performance by jazz steel drummer Othello Molineaux and Latin percussionist Manolo Badrena.

The landmark jazz club and restaurant will then close for a week for further work. It will reopen June 29 to offer lunches Monday through Friday and dinners Monday through Saturday. Entertainment will be offered Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It will feature a mix of local and national musical acts, ranging from rock to jazz, as well as comedy.

The Web site to purchase tickets for Sunday’s performance and see upcoming shows is

“It is going to be a comfortable atmosphere for a lot of different people,” said Jeffrey McDonald, who will manage the facility with several cousins.

The McDonald family, which owns other restaurants in Schenectady, purchased the Van Dyck at auction in October for $252,000, repaying $147,000 in back taxes and spending $70,000 to buy the Van Dyck’s microbrewing equipment. The prior owner, N. Peter Olsen, had defaulted on around $525,000 in loans from Berkshire Bank and the Metroplex Development Authority. The bank got all of its money through the auction; Metroplex received some through the auction and is suing Olsen to recover the rest.

Olsen closed the Van Dyck in March 2007, claiming he needed to make repairs. He never reopened it.

Since October, the McDonald family has spent $531,000, plus countless hours, on inside renovation of the Union Street facility. “We gave it the face-lift it needs to make it a competitive restaurant,” McDonald said.

The McDonalds retained original mahogany woodwork, crystal chandeliers and distinctive wallpaper in the building while adding modern bathrooms and expanding space for dining.

“People will see significant changes, but the Van Dyck is still recognizable,” McDonald said.

Gone is the stairwell that greeted visitors upon entering the Van Dyck. McDonald said it created a bottleneck to the bar area. Workers built a new stairwell off to the right of the main entrance, punching through a brick wall and using wood from the original stairway.

The space where the stairwell was on the first floor is now an open area lined with mahogany paneling, while the spot where it connected to the second floor is now dining space.

Another noticeable change is that the McDonalds shortened the wooden bar downstairs. Where once it ran the length of the room for 50 feet, it is now 37 feet long. Dining tables fill the open space. They restained the bar and polished the brass foot rails. Mosaic tiles cover the former slate floor in the bar area.

Visitors will also notice the balcony now runs unbroken along two interior walls of the main dining area, which sits under a skylight. There had originally been two balconies separated by a 5-foot-wide gap. The McDonalds closed the gap and created a connection to the far hallway by knocking through a brick wall.

The McDonalds ripped up the cracked concrete surface of the outside patio, installed cobblestone pavers, put up a privacy fence and landscaped the area.

In the fall, the McDonalds will open their microbrewery, which occupies a building behind the Van Dyck. They will sell their beer at the Van Dyck and at their other restaurants, Pinhead Susan’s, the Stockade Inn and the Park Inn.

The second-floor entertainment area features new paint, carpeting and a second stairwell to the third-floor viewing area. The stage remains the same size and in the same place. McDonald said the room’s noted acoustics remain unaffected.

Schenectady Heritage Foundation Chairwoman Gloria Kishton said the foundation is pleased with what the McDonalds have done with the Van Dyck.

“We have been watching their progress, and it is very exciting. We are enthusiastic about the whole thing,” she said.

Kishton said the McDonald family “has an excellent track record with their other businesses, and we are optimistic the Van Dyck will be a thriving concern.”

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