Schenectady cafe Ambition reopens after brief closure; City apologizes for ‘overzealous’ sanitation citation

Code violations have been resolved
Ambition owner Marc Renson is pictured in his cafe on Thursday.
Ambition owner Marc Renson is pictured in his cafe on Thursday.

SCHENECTADY — A popular downtown cafe has re-opened after a brief closure for code violations.

Ambition Coffee & Eatery was cited by the city Codes Department on Sunday for high carbon monoxide levels, among other violations.

The closure was prompted when Chef Justin Friello heard a carbon monoxide detector go off while preparing for the morning rush and called National Grid, said owner Marc Renson. 

City inspectors shut down the bistro after detecting an elevated level of carbon monoxide.

The city also cited the business for potential structural problems and minor sanitation issues and slapped a red condemnation order on the front door.

According to Renson, the additional violations were the product of an “overzealous” code enforcement officer, a characterization backed by the city’s chief building inspector. 

“Unfortunately, the officer put a placard on for ‘unsanitary conditions’ that was cited overzealously,” said Chief Building Inspector Chris Lunn, who ultimately dismissed any sanitation-related concerns as normal wear and tear and appropriate for the building’s age. 

The sanitation issue was ultimately attributed to minor things like a cobweb on the ceiling of the dining room, Renson said. 

“Every single thing cited as unsanitary was for non-food-related items,” he said.

Lunn said he apologized to Renson for the mixup. 

“I care about businesses and want them to succeed,” Lunn said. “There’s give and take to make sure the public is safe and we get things right.”

The structural issue was a crack in the 140-year-old tin ceiling.  

The order, said Renson, led to “four days of chaos.”

The high carbon monoxide levels were the result of a boiler and hot water heater not working properly. Ambition installed a new boiler and hot water heater and the cafe was bustling on Thursday morning. 

Renson said he was appreciative for the support from the business community and well-wishers.

“I’m filled with gratitude,” Renson said. “It’s reassuring people care about you and what you do.”

Renson also consulted with an architectural firm and Lunn, a meeting which resulted in a “spirit of cooperation” to resolve the structural concerns.

Ambition has been a Jay Street mainstay that pre-dates the surge of downtown development.

“As downtown Schenectady continues to grow, long-standing small businesses such as Ambition become prey to development,” Renson said in a released statement. “A building that has stood to feed the people of the city for over 100 years is not going to shine in the same way a new building would. However, it’s the little cracks and flaws, and unapologetic individuality, that have made Ambition a mainstay of Schenectady for nearly 20 years.”

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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