Schenectady County

Couple carries on Scotia bar’s legacy

Mohawk Taproom & Grill will specialize in craft beer and burgers, filling a niche.
Mohawk Taproom & Grill owner Michael Martini, right, pours an Ommegang Rare Vos as Blake Saunders, his brother-in-law and a part-time bartender, observes.
Mohawk Taproom & Grill owner Michael Martini, right, pours an Ommegang Rare Vos as Blake Saunders, his brother-in-law and a part-time bartender, observes.

Steve and Aggie Barmash approached a pub Thursday, hoping to squeeze in a casual dinner before seeing “The Other Woman” down Mohawk Avenue at Scotia Cinema.

The Niskayuna husband and wife thought they were entering O’Leary’s Pub & Grill, a village pub for more than a decade. Instead, they were met with the owners, bartenders and waitstaff of the future Mohawk Taproom & Grill, who were tasting the variety of craft beers on tap in preparation for today’s soft opening.

“We assumed it was still open,” Steve Barmash, 56, said of O’Leary’s, which was opened by the O’Leary brothers in March 2001 and closed in early September.

The Barmashes are excited about the new bar and restaurant, which will specialize in craft beer and burgers, filling a niche. Aside from O’Leary’s, there hasn’t been much in the way of casual dining in downtown Scotia in recent years, they said.

Yes, there’s always Jumpin’ Jacks, but the popular drive-in doesn’t serve adult beverages.

“We’re not quite dressed for Glen Sanders,” Steve Barmash joked, looking down at his blue jeans.

Michael Martini, 32, grew up in Glenville and remembers going to O’Leary’s with his parents on weekends. He and his wife, Stephanie, are the new owners bringing new life to the bar at the corner of Mohawk Avenue and Ten Broeck Street, across from the Scotia Fire Department.

“It was packed,” Michael Martini recalled Thursday from behind the bar’s original counter. “Everybody knew each other in here.”

The Martinis, who are leasing the building, hope to bring a neighborhood watering hole — and water cooler — back to Scotia.

“It used to be a very thriving staple in this community,” Stephanie Martini, 32, said, “and that’s what we would like it to be again.”

“It was a big part of the people who lived in the village of Scotia,” her husband added. “It was the meeting place in town.”

Customers like the Barmashes are looking forward to the opening. The restaurant’s Facebook page has already amassed 950 likes, and local officials, as well as the firefighters across the street, have welcomed the business with open arms, the couple said.

“The O’Leary brothers built the business to be a cornerstone in the village,” Scotia Mayor Kris Kastberg said. “I think the Martinis are the right type of owners to bring this business back to fill the void left when the original closed.”

The Martinis, who live in the village, have 28 years of experience between them, having both worked in restaurants since they were 18. Most recently, they were managers at Wheatfields Restaurant & Bar locations in Saratoga Springs and Clifton Park for several years.

Michael Martini knew it was time for them to open a restaurant of their own after driving past O’Leary’s in September and seeing a “for sale” sign out front. The establishment will employ 10 people, including the Martinis.

“If you manage a restaurant, and that’s going to be your career, everybody dreams about owning their own,” he said.

“We’ve been running restaurants for other people,” Stephanie Martini said. “We decided that it was time to do a restaurant for ourselves.”

And while the couple hopes to bring back O’Leary’s welcoming, Cheers-like atmosphere (where everybody knows your name) inside, the bar has a new, polished look. The wooden bar stools are new, replacing the old, spinning metal ones, as are the tables and light fixtures. Gone are the green walls and ceiling, the bagpipes, golf clubs, Yankees memorabilia and model sailboat that contributed to the establishment’s busy décor. The walls are now wooden panels, decorated with chalkboard beer menus.

The menu will continue O’Leary’s pub fare tradition, but with more emphasis on “homemade” food, she said.

“We’re making everything from scratch,” she said. “There’s a bacon-wrapped meatloaf. One of our signature burgers is called the 50/50 burger, and it’s half ground beef, half ground bacon.”

Those offerings won’t be available until Friday, but the bar will start with a smaller menu of appetizers like wings and entrees like burgers and fish and chips when it opens today at 2 p.m. The bar will open at 11 a.m. Sunday, an hour earlier than future Sundays, to be open longer for the Scotia Father’s Day Car Show. A grand opening is planned for Thursday, July 17.

The biggest difference from O’Leary’s, which served mostly domestic beers, will be the 20 beers on tap, most of them craft beers, Michael Martini said. The Martinis added six taps to the bar, which used to have 14.

Michael Martini crafted the beer list, which includes locally brewed favorites such as Brown’s Brown Ale and Ommegang Witte and Rare Vos, with help from the restaurant’s Facebook followers. The followers, he said, surprised him by insisting on Switchback Ale, which is on tap.

“The beer list is going to set it apart,” he said.

Steve Barmash has yet to see the beer list, but he did walk in on the employees sampling some of the beers, which was enough to pique his interest.

“I like some different kinds of beer,” he said. “It already sounds like it’s going to be even better.”

Categories: Business

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