The path to a piano bar began with a meeting in February, 2021, when New Paltz Planning Board members heard about a new vision for 107 Main Street; it ended with a bar full of silver-haired patrons singing along to “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” A sneak peek of The Lemon Squeeze was offered on December 1 to a select list of community residents, who got to savor the atmosphere and taste the fare gratis for the evening with co-owner Ed Carroll playing host.
While the bones of this building seem largely intact, a massive amount of work went into shoring up and modernizing this venerable structure. Built in 1967, parts of the building seemed to have acquired a considerable patina since. Work crews swept away all of that old history, moving bathrooms to the ground floor, taking jackhammers into the basement to make it large enough to stand upright, and replacing every possible fixture with something better suited to the piano bar it has become.
Ed and Gina Carroll set out to make a bar that would feel welcoming to someone older than the typical undergraduate student, and on that they seem to have succeeded. They recalled the times they enjoyed at this very location when it was Strawberry Fields, and when they bought the place they opted to create a casual-dining restaurant with a commanding piano bar. The decor is sleek and dark, but the lighting during the party was bright enough that no one stumbled up the stairs to the raised platform that featured additional seating around the baby grand piano. The live music recalled a decade in the not-too-distant past when Gina O’Brien and Ed Carroll met attending SUNY New Paltz in the early 1980s — a careful examination of that campus will reveal a stone marking the very spot — played at a volume that allowed middle-aged and older ears to follow a conversation during the performance. The couple pursued careers in media, landing in film and television respectively. In between they married, moved from New York City to Huntington, NY, and raised two children. They’ve returned many times to New Paltz to visit the college, vacation at Mohonk, hike the trails and stop by P&Gs. On one such occasion, the couple stumbled upon an open house in a neighborhood near campus and ended up with a weekend home. Their roots in New Paltz now extend to Main Street, with The Lemon Squeeze.
If the assortment of finger foods at this soft opening were any indication, the menu is more crudités than veggie platters, and comfort food rather than fried bar fare. Beverages include local wines and custom cocktails. The name “Lemon Squeeze” refers both to those cocktails — hence the large number of that fruit on display and in use — and to the popular Mohonk trail.
The Lemon Squeeze has been described as “an adult bar, in the sense that the crowd is older,” by one resident, and Ed Carroll understands how to play into that. When making some brief remarks, Carroll thanked all those present for supporting this ambitious project. Then, Carroll encouraged everyone to find the lyrics to “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” for what will surely not be the only singalong at this re-imagined venue. Carroll then added, “Now take out your reading glasses. I’ll wait.”
Look for The Lemon Squeeze to be open to the public starting Friday, December 9; the piano player will start tickling the ivories at nine o’clock.