When the doors to P&G’s in New Paltz were opened again on January 19 after being closed for a renovation project, there were people outside who had been waiting half an hour just to get in. Within 15 minutes, there were more than 20 people seated at tables and along the newly-extended bar, enjoying beverages and waiting for food that was being prepared in a kitchen now just enough larger to make the workflow smooth as silk. Such is the legacy of the tavern which has been owned by the Beck family for 50 years, housed in a building now 110 years old. It’s the largest remodel in a generation, and current owner Mike Beck was kind enough to provide a tour.
The work that Beck received planning board approval to complete isn’t actually finished yet and won’t be until the weather turns warm. However, what’s been done has proven much more extensive than what board members signed off on, different enough that amendments to the plan were made to provide for them. Old buildings yield surprises during work, Beck noted, but this time each surprise was actually an opportunity to do something a little bit better.
“We knew we needed to expand the kitchen, and the barbershop was the only option,” Beck recalled. That’s Ricci’s Barbershop, and Cindy Ricci has now moved her business down the street. The friendship she and Beck share was not harmed in the process. The importance of expanding the kitchen can be shown by the fact that, since the reopening, employees have sought out building inspector Cory Wirthmann to thank him for making it possible.
The best use of the space, according to Beck, was to split it between more kitchen and more customer area. That’s why the old Ricci’s door is now a second entrance to P&G’s, opening into a small waiting area alongside an extension of the bar which to this reporter’s eye is indistinguishable from the original. Beck credits that success to Apuzzo Kitchens, where the new fixtures were built.
People waiting outside in 20-degree weather shows something about how important P&G’s is in this community, but so does how well customers adapted to the work done before the closure. Beck described the temporary wall which was erected during demolition, cutting the bar length in half. The sheet of plywood didn’t prevent him from opening for New Year’s Eve. “They rolled with it,” he said.
Along the way, new options presented themselves. Soffits which concealed a snarl of wiring are now gone, opening up more room for the televisions and higher ceilings in places. Perhaps half the dining floor, as well as what’s behind the bar, were replaced down to the sub-flooring and is level for the first time in decades. Some posts and beams were replaced, including one in the kitchen which had to be moved because it was in the way of cooking for as long as anyone can remember. The ceiling paneling, too, is new, serving as counterpoint to the tile flooring (much of which looks like the wood next to which it runs).
A week later, workers are still hooking up screens, preparing for awnings (which will return to the forest-green from days of yore), and otherwise fine-tuning before opening each day. Downstairs, where there was parking under the dining room overhang, will become a prep kitchen space once it warms up enough to do that work.
The overhang was the last major planned renovation, managed by Mike’s father Ed in 1983. More recently — in 2008 — a fire gutted the kitchen, prompting an unplanned renovation. Beck said the fire resulted in contractors having familiarity with the inner workings of the building which was the Casino when first built, leading to more ideas about the best use of space.
Hidden from customer view is a new staircase. Beck once had a closet-sized office in the back, but now a hallway leads to these stairs, which lead up to the residential second floor. Part of one of the apartments has been converted into storage and office space accessible to employees only; the bedroom was added onto the other apartment, which is rented as of February 1 now with three bedrooms. Changes to that space mean that there is also more room available in Mexicali Blue next door, although work to take advantage of that fact is not yet complete. Beck credits Bob Colucci of Ultimate Homes with suggesting many of those improvements; Colucci also worked on the kitchen after the 2008 fire.
The office space has desks for administrative work, but also an electronics rack which replaces “wire spaghetti” with hardware for cable, internet and the large number of closed-circuit cameras pointing inside and outside the property. A huge screen displays the live video feeds, and Beck said that the exterior ones — which now include views of Front Street as well as Main and Plattekill — can be accessed directly by town police officers. Those cameras often pick up incidents such as pedestrians getting hit in the crosswalk, he said.
Technology permeates much of the building in new ways. All of the televisions start with one button now, going immediately to preset stations, and can be easily changed by any employee. Environmental controls are now hooked to mini-split heat pumps, considered state-of-the-art in energy-efficient design. The massive speakers have been replaced with a modern sound system, as well.
Improvements to the bathrooms are getting a lot of chatter. A third toilet is now in the ladies’ room, and gone is the men’s room trough that was a relic of a time long gone. “Those are illegal now,” Beck said with a laugh while showing off the new urinals. The bathrooms are well-lit, designed to be welcoming, easy to clean and durable.
This could well be the capstone of Mike Beck’s stewardship of this building, for which he took over management in 1985. Mike Jr. and Kristin, son and daughter, both work in the business and are being groomed to take it over when their father is ready to let it “step into the next generation.” That’s likely good news to the many people who have returned to visit years or decades after their first foray, often as college students. P&G’s seems poised to remain a “cornerstone of New Paltz” for a good long time. Not only is the Beck family geared for succession, but according to building inspector Wirthmann, the improvements made this time around mean “the building will stand another 600 years.”