BALLSTON LAKE – Carney’s Tavern, the restaurant housed in the historic Ballston Lake building known by the same name, will be open Tuesday, despite the departure of the restaurant’s operators, owner Rosemary Carney said Monday.
The restaurant’s operators for the last eight years, Stephanie and Matt Finnigan, on Monday announced in a Facebook message and post to the restaurant website that they were “shutting the doors” to the longtime local pub.
But Carney, who along with her husband bought the building and opened Carney’s Tavern in the 1970s, said the tavern will be open on Tuesday and will go forward.
“Apparently they’ve had enough or whatever, we will be open tomorrow,” Carney said in a Monday interview. “It will be open tomorrow and next year, as long as I’m around.”
The Finnigans, who did not return a message seeking comment Monday, in their public message suggested the old building didn’t meet their needs and indicated an announcement about a new restaurant venture they were planning in the area would be forthcoming soon.
“Our hearts are extremely heavy as we are no longer able to continue operations at the address of 17 Main Street in Ballston Lake,” the owners wrote in the message Monday. “Unfortunately, the beautiful old building which houses Carney’s Tavern and dates back to 1840 has met its limitations.”
In the farewell message, the Finnigans said they and several of their current employees will be continuing in the restaurant industry and told their patrons to “stay tuned” for an announcement about their next plans.
Carney said her son, who has managed the kitchen for decades, and other longtime employees, including people who predate the Finnigans as operators, planned to continue running the restaurant, which had been temporarily closed of late. She said she didn’t know why the Finnigans suggested the restaurant was closing and said they leased the building from her on a month-to-month basis. She said she knew that business had been slowing down recently and that “everybody thinks it’s easy to run a restaurant.”
“They won’t be there, but I will make sure it’s open,” Carney said, referring to the Finnigans. “It’s all about the locals.”
The building itself, which contains a sign listing its original establishment in 1840, has long served as a restaurant, bar, saloon, hotel and local landmark. Local historians even speculate that then-Vice President Theodore Roosevelt stopped at the old tavern – known at the time as the Ballston Lake Hotel – on his way back to Washington from a hunting trip in the Adirondacks after then-President William McKinley suffered from a gunshot wound he would eventually succumb to in 1901.
“We don’t know that for sure, but it’s a long trip, and the Ballston Lake Hotel was the first place in town to have a telephone,” Town of Ballston Historian Rick Reynolds told the Daily Gazette for a 2011 article on the tavern’s history. “He didn’t sleep here, but he probably ate, used the phone, and then got back on the train.”
The building has passed hands many times over the decades but was largely used as a hotel and restaurant for much of its history.
Tracy Egan, executive director of the New York State Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund, remembered the old swear jar that sat at the bar under previous ownership. Her father’s family ran the Shenandahora Hotel that used to occupy the building. She said it has always been an important and central part of the Ballston Lake community.
“Many of the classes from Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (High School) have spur-of-the-moment reunions at Carney’s,” Egan said. “Matt and Stephanie would always roll out the red carpet for everyone.”
The restaurant, a popular spot for local musicians, has long hosted legendary St. Patrick’s Day celebrations complete with many pounds of corned beef.