Sorting through local restaurant changes

bear-HZTCan we just get a simple meal here? What with all the rumors surrounding Woodstock’s restaurant scene of late, it seemed only right to check in with what’s really what.

At Oriole 9, things are running smoothly again with the holes in the ceiling finally repaired, the art shows still running, and most of the staff still on hand. Jessica Miller Anna, who stepped up from being one of three silent partners to start managing the popular daytime spot, said simply that former managing partners Pierre-Luc Moeys and Nina Paturel are “going on to do other things.”

Moeys and Paturel continue to run their YumYum restaurants in Woodstock and Kingston, as well as Lekker cafe and catering in Stone Ridge.

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“We’re keeping everything the same…I love the wait staff here,” the new manager said, describing what shifted at Oriole 9 as “a big misunderstanding that led to a blow up…Over the years I worked at every restaurant in this town, from The Bear to Taco Juan’s and Sunfrost. I grew up in our restaurants.”

Down Tinker Street at the new Shindig, which opened last winter, partner Ryan Giuliani (one of several NYC-based owners with homes in the Woodstock area) spoke about how popular a new takeout window at the site of the former Corner Cupboard has been. But further plans for outdoor seating are on hold for the present.

“It’s got a simpler menu than inside but I like eating there myself,” Giuliani, who heads a city catering company, added. “We’re getting used to the flow of a town that’s seasonal, which is why we opened when we did in the winter. We’ve all gotten to like those nice weekdays when locals can come in without the craziness.”

Giuliani added that any other changes people have noticed over recent months were simply the result of  a business finding it’s business stride.

Lastly, over at the Bearsville complex recently retagged as Woodstock Commune, home of the Bearsville Theater, the new Commune Saloon and venerable Bear Café restaurant, Michael Roarke, who bought the complex with John Fitzpatrick over a year ago, wanted to assure Woodstockers that the big changes that were happening at The Bear Café have not only been halted but reversed. And future shifts will be handled more slowly and carefully.

“I’m a huge fan of transparency,” Roarke said in a recent interview where he stressed the many upgrades made to the Peterson House, property gardens, theater booking, and now the compound’s parking. “We had Nic Geerearts working on our food and beverage service but he left after John and I felt he no longer shared the same vision.”

Roark talked about how he and his wife have been loyal customers at The Bear for their 13 years in the area.

“We like it the way it’s always been,” he said. “Nic really wanted to change it…we’ve since been able to keep most of the mainstays on the staff in place.

As for former owners Peter Cantine, who served as the Bear’s maitre d, and chef Eric Mann, Roark added that while Mann was staying “through the season,” he had also been long planning hip surgery. And Cantine “declined an offer to continue…it is what it is at this point.”

The menu at the restaurant, meanwhile, is “back to what it was,” according to Roark.

As for the theater, a new arrangement with Bowery Presents is “simpler than originally announced,” bringing in 100 acts a year in addition to what Bearsville has long promoted, lending the place more of the “cutting edge” element the club had when originally envisioned and built by legendary manager and music promoter Albert Grossman.

There, changes have included the addition of better “green rooms,” and similar bathroom upgrades as have occurred at the Bear.

The removal of the glass between the theater’s bar and stage areas, Roarke added, “isn’t necessarily forever. We carefully stored it and want to see how things go.”

“Look, I’m a local. I saw the locals, my friends, not coming in,” Roark added about the changes people have been talking about in town. “It was heartbreaking…but in the long run it’s not hard to change back. No big drama…”

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