A Saratoga Springs comedy club operator and Niskayuna resident is planning to open an American-style restaurant in the old Niskayuna Barber shop near Nott Street and Balltown Road.
Thomas Nicchi, who has worked in the hospitality business for 15 years, has proposed converting the former barber shop into a restaurant and bar complete with a pick-up window for take-out and seasonal ice cream sales. The site plan describes the restaurant as serving “American fare,” with weekday hours from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the latest and weekend hours open earlier for brunch service.
While some neighboring businesses have welcomed the proposed eatery, a longtime owner of nearby properties said she fears the restaurant will strain local parking and cause increased traffic on Nott Street, launching a last-minute campaign to convince the town board to reject the proposal.
The plan projects the restaurant would seat between 30 and 50 guests, with 80 percent of the seating reserved for dining and 20 percent for bar service, and employ one to four people at any given time.
Nicchi, who lives near the site of the proposed restaurant with his family, said he wants to see a local restaurant where he and his family can walk to enjoy ice cream or a glass of wine with friends. He said the proposal also converts currently unused commercial space into something productive.
“This project is good for the community,” Nicchi said in a Sunday interview. Nicchi operates Comedy Works in Saratoga Springs as well as the State Room, an event venue in Albany.
The proposal goes up for approval at Tuesday’s Niskayuna Town Board meeting, where the board will consider a special use permit allowing Nicchi to move forward with the restaurant and bar renovations.
Gail King, who owns one of the buildings in the same strip of shopping, as well as a vacant lot across Nott Street and another building just north of the shopping area, however, has argued the proposed restaurant will stress parking capacity and disrupt the adjacent residential neighborhood.
“I think it will impact the credibility of the neighborhood,” King said in an interview Sunday. “My conclusion comes down to it’s too big an operation for that small space.”
King, who plans to rent apartments in a building just north of the shopping center, said she is concerned about the impact of bar patrons at the proposed restaurant, which is planned to stay open until 11 p.m. on Fridays. She also emphasized the limited parking surrounding the broader shopping area and said she thought the restaurant would take up spots for people visiting the nearby Niskayuna Co-Op grocery or other businesses.
“When you actually get down to look at what we have there, the roads and walkways, it’s minimal for having parking for businesses, it’s minimal all the way around, and this business tips the scale,” King said.
Nicchi countered that everything included in his proposal follows the town code, including parking requirements, highlighting the plan’s unanimous support from the town’s planning board. Nicchi, who said King’s criticism was the only objection his plan faced, noted his proposal has garnered around 100 signatures of support, including from the Niskayua Co-Op, which will allow restaurant patrons to use the parking lot across Nott Street from the grocery story. David Lange, who runs Lange’s Pharmacy and owns the building where Nicchi plans to open the restaurant, also promised to share parking spots with the proposed restaurant.
In addressing King’s concerns, Nicchi emphasized that 80 percent of the proposed seating is dedicated to dining – not the bar. The plan also includes family features like seasonal ice cream and gelato sales.
“I don’t know why this is perceived as a bar,” Nicchi said. “We have done things the right way. The code says what we have done is appropriate.”
Nicchi said he has multiple state liquor licenses and has had zero infractions and has never once had police called on one of his businesses. While he said he didn’t want to share more details about the specifics of the restaurant until after the town board approved the proposal, he said it will include both dine-in and take-out service and the site plan document acknowledges the difficult time in the restaurant industry.
“To say this is a unique time to be opening a restaurant would be an understatement, but I believe firmly that we will succeed,” he wrote in the proposal.