BROADWAY BEER GARDEN BREWING

Former site of Noche will now offer sausage, schnitzel menu

STEVE BARNES SENIOR WRITER
Section: Business,  Page: C1

Date: Friday, November 7, 2008

ALBANY -- A traditional German beer garden is planned for the renovated Broadway firehouse that once housed the nightclub Noche.


Wolff's Biergarten, with a modestly priced menu and casual dining, will open in the spring, said the owner.


Matt Baumgartner, who owned Noche from December 2005 to spring 2007 and also owns Bombers Burrito Bar on Albany's Lark Street, said Thursday it will be a traditional beer garden with communal seating, 50 German and Belgian beers, and a sausage-and-schnitzel menu.


Customers will order and pick up food from an open kitchen.


Renovations are set to begin next month to turn what was once an upscale, swanky club into a casual restaurant with more wallet-friendly prices, Baumgartner said. His partners in Wolff's are James and Demetra Vann, who were partners in Noche; James Vann is also vice president of Bombers.


Baumgartner said the building's garage door and expansive open space -- where the fire truck was parked -- make the location at 895 Broadway ideal for creating the sort of convivial gathering place he has found at beer gardens in New York City and Munich.


"It will be significantly different from Noche -- much more casual," Baumgartner said.


Gone will be Noche's low leather booths and the bright-red, cast-iron spiral staircase leading to the building's second floor. The 32-foot-long walnut bar built for Noche will remain. Baumgartner said he envisions darts and other games, televisions, and other amenities he hopes will attract crowds seeking a fun night out or a quick bite.


He expects Wolff's to be open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch.


Baumgartner sold Noche in March 2007 to Jack Valente, whose family has owned Valente's Restaurant in Watervliet for more than 50 years. Under its new owner, the club foundered through the rest of 2007, was renamed Jack Rabbit Slims in December and made a run at becoming a venue for live music. Jack Rabbit Slims closed in May.


When Noche first opened, Baumgartner estimated he and his partners had spent about $500,000 to renovate the space. How much Valente paid for Noche hasn't been disclosed. Baumgartner said the building's owner approached him about leasing the space again after Jack Rabbit Slims closed.


In addition to investing in businesses in the industrial area around Broadway, about a half-mile north of Clinton Avenue, Baumgartner also lives there, having bought a former factory building and renovating it into two loft residences.


Baumgartner also is working on a Schenectady version of Bombers, and said he finalized financing earlier this week.


He bought a building on State Street, near the Proctors complex, and plans to begin structural work the week after Thanksgiving. Long delays on the project mean he will be renovating two restaurants simultaneously and trying to open both in the spring.


"There will be a lot of driving back and forth," he said with a laugh.


Steve Barnes can be reached at 454-5489 or by e-mail at sbarnes@timesunion.com. Visit his blog at http://blogs.timesunion.com/tablehopping.