December 28, 2010 at 3:09 pm by Steve Barnes, senior writer
Following up on a tidbit I reported a month ago, the former Ballingers nightclub in downtown Albany is being redeveloped as a brew palace called Beer Land. A February opening is projected.
The business is leasing the building, at Howard and Lodge streets, home for decades to the restaurant Ogden’s, from Douglas Ballinger. Ballinger, who with his brothers has owned the New York City club and music venue Webster Hall for more than 20 years, bought the building in 2006 and handsomely renovated it over the course of a year. Ballingers was able to make go of it as a nightclub for three fitful years beforeclosing for good in January 2010.
The owners of Beer Land are Ballinger’s brother Lon, Lon’s son Kaelin and Kenny Schachter; the latter two are responsible for the booking, marketing and and promotion of Webster Hall.
“We want to add something totally unique to the city in a building that is already historically unique,” Schachter tells me.
A 2006 graduate of the University at Albany, Schachter says his familiarity with Albany nightlife, combined with the hard lessons learned at Ballingers and the singularity of Beer Land, will combine to make the new venture succeed where its predecessor did not.
In particular, he says, Beer Land will draw a wider section of the population than Ballingers did, with separate floors of the building targeted at different demographics, and the owners have arranged for free parking in a lot nearby. As the diverse clientele of Wolff’s Biergarten proves, it’s possible to attract a large, diverse clientele to a location off the main drag if the atmosphere is broadly appealing.
As Beer Land, the building will house three distinct environments, Schachter says, including a traditional, albeit not exclusively German, beer hall on the main floor. The basement, a cool grotto clad in Helderberg bluestone, right, will largely retain its look but have a separate theme from the main floor, as will the second floor. Schachter says the partners are not yet ready to release full details of the themes, food service or programming.
Beer Land has been granted conditional approval of its liquor license for bars on all three floors, according to the State Liquor Authority, and plans to install dozens of draft lines for an eclectic selection of beer on tap, to be complemented by a large array of bottled brews.