During the warmer months, the Strand in Kingston is a jumpin’ place. The waterfront neighborhood’s restaurants benefit from the allure of taking a stroll or a paddle along the glittering Rondout Creek, nearby where the tributary empties into the mighty Hudson. As the days get colder and darker and hanging out outdoors loses its appeal, however, visitation drops precipitously and many local businesses cut back their hours of operation. How to entice people back to the Strand once late fall gives way to winter was already a poser even in pre-COVID times. But now a local restaurateur has hit on a brainwave that may prove a big wintertime draw: a skating rink with an excellent view of the Rondout.
On a fine summer evening, northbound walkers along the waterfront promenade are apt to hear the sounds of merriment and music as they pass the Wooden Boat School and approach the enormous brick building from the Rondout’s industrial past that now houses Ole Savannah Southern Table and Bar. On the street side of the pathway is a big white tent that the popular barbecue restaurant rents out for weddings, graduation parties and other outdoor social events. But it doesn’t stay up year-round.
“We take it down in the winter anyway. It’s been here for seven years now,” says Ole Savannah owner Dave Amato as he shows Hudson Valley One the new temporary structure that’s taking the party tent’s place. “I was thinking of something fun to draw people to the waterfront in wintertime.”
Just completed and ready to begin filling the day we visited, the ice-skating rink is 30 feet wide and 60 feet long, with four-foot-high fiberglass walls buttressed at intervals by steel plate posts. The bottom is lined with a dense network of tubes that will distribute the glycol chiller fluid pumped from a ten-ton refrigeration unit at the south end. “It’s as large as I could possibly make it with the space that I have. It was custom-made for that space,” says Amato. “Tomorrow we start building a shed.”
On the Creek side of the rink, a space is set aside for the shed where rental skates will be stored and benches where patrons can change into them. There will also be a concession stand selling hot chocolate and snacks. The ticket booth will stand alongside the entrance to the restaurant. Use of the rink will cost $15 per person for a half-hour, according to Amato, plus $5 for skate rental.
A soft opening is planned for Thanksgiving weekend. At 6 p.m. on Thursday, December 2, the Grand Opening gets underway: a ribbon-cutting and tree-lighting, followed by a holiday party featuring complimentary hors d’oeuvres, a cash bar, live music from local talents Michael Dell and Marie Hickey and a laser show projected onto the side of the restaurant building.
Most days, music for the rink will be piped in from Ole Savannah’s ambient sound system, and the rink will be lit up for evening skating. At the outset, rink hours will be from 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays. Those hours “may expand as we go,” depending on public demand, Amato says, and the rink will definitely stay open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. for the entire week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
That said, there will be times when individuals and businesses rent out the entire rink for private celebrations: “Corporate events, birthday parties; we already have a couple of office Christmas parties booked.”
But mostly, what Amato has in mind is giving people something to do outdoors in the Rondout when it’s too cold outside for dance parties. “The rink will stay up through the end of February at least. At 50 degrees or below, it works well,” he says. “It’ll be great for families, date night, friends getting together.”
Ole Savannah Southern Table and Bar is located at 100 Rondout Landing in the Rondout Historic District of Kingston. For more information, visit https://olesavannah.com.