Foxenkill Tavern will reopen with food, drinks, and live music

The Enterprise — Michael Koff
The former Foxenkill Tavern will be reopened and restored as a new restaurant.

KNOX — Dining choices are expanding in Knox. A restaurant opened in the hamlet last month; another is set to open on the edge of town this spring.

Last Thursday, the Knox Zoning Board of Appeals approved a special-use permit for Christopher Shoemaker, the owner of the Duanesburg Rosa Villa’s Pizzeria, to reopen the Foxenkill Tavern, said zoning board member Kenneth Kirik.

Shoemaker's parents purchased and fixed up the building for their 26-year-old son to rent to re-open the tavern.

“It is a nice spot,” Shoemaker said, noting that it rests on a bend in the Foxenkill. “A nice, peaceful spot.”

Shoemaker hopes to open up a tavern and restaurant serving “tavern-type” food with live music. He said the chef is still creating a menu. He also intends to keep the former name of the tavern.

Shoemaker, who grew up in Schoharie and Guilderland and is a Guilderland High School alumni, has owned his current restaurant, Rosa Villa’s Pizzeria, for three years, after buying it during his senior year at Siena College where he was earning a degree in business management.

Rosa Villa’s had been open for a year before it was put up for sale; Shoemaker attributed the closing to poor management.

“It was not a great business when I bought it,” he said.

Shoemaker had worked at restaurants when he was in high school and also while he was at college.

Since buying Rosa Villa, Shoemaker has used social media, search-engine optimization, and other ways to create an online presence to market his business. A post announcing purchase of the Foxenkill Tavern on Facebook soon gained hundreds of likes, shares, and comments.

“I’ve got people messaging me that their grandma used to play music there in the 1950s,” he said.

The tavern has been open since the late 1920s, and closed in 2006 before it was reopened two years later, though it stayed open for only a short time.

Shoemaker is hoping many people who frequent his Duanesburg business will travel to the tavern.

“There’s not a lot of places for people,” he said, noting that the owner of the Hillview Tavern in Duanesburg died last year, leading to its closing.

Shoemaker said he wanted a second location that would serve as a “sit-down” restaurant as opposed to his pizzeria, which is mainly a delivery or takeout business. He said that the new restaurant will also have a different menu; instead of pizza and appetizers, he’s hoping to offer steaks and burgers.

The hours will also be different. Rosa Villa is open every day of the week. Shoemaker intends to open the Foxenkill Tavern Thursday through Sunday only; 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday.

He previously owned another restaurant, Little Italy Pizzeria in Troy, which he sold last year. He currently owns only Rosa Villa.

After selling the Troy pizzeria, Shoemaker said he decided he wanted a second restaurant close enough to Rosa Villa that he could easily go back and forth. The Foxenkill Tavern is a little over 20 minutes by car from Rosa Villa.

Shoemaker intends to employ around six people to begin with at the new location, but may increase that number. Shoemaker also said he is not certain of an opening date at this point; though he is hoping to open in the spring, he said he will not open until he has obtained a liquor license for the tavern.

He plans to book rock and country bands, such as Skeeter Creek, as he believes the lead singer is from the Hilltowns. Renée Lussier-Ahl was raised in Knox and is a Berne-Knox-Westerlo alumna.

“That’d be great if we could get her to come up,” he said.

Shoemaker said that the tavern has already been cleaned and a few minor repairs have been made, but there will be no major changes to the familiar structure.

According to Kirik, the special-use permit application was submitted about two months ago, and a public hearing was held Thursday night before four board members approved it. Kirik said no one came to the public hearing.

“It was unanimous among the board members that were there,” said Kirik, of the vote. The former zoning board chairman, John DeMis, resigned at the beginning of the year, and board member Pamela Kleppel has not been re-appointed to her post since her term expired at the end of last year, although she sat in on the meeting and anticipates being reappointed, said Kirik. Another board member, James McDonald, was absent. But the board still had a quorum of its remaining members, said Kirik.

Kirik said the board’s initial concerns were over parking, safety, and public drunkenness. But they were reassured as the property has expansive parking and is not close to residences, he said.

“There’s really no neighbor disturbances … ,” he said. “There’s no reason we saw to vote against it … The tavern was open before.”

The restaurant would have to have a health and safety inspection, and so any other concerns would go through the necessary state and county agencies, said Kirik.

The restaurant is found at the edge of Foxenkill, in the southwest corner of Knox on the borders of the towns of Wright and Berne. While the area is not totally devoid of neighbors, Kirik said the restaurant intends to create a system in which those who are too inebriated are driven home.

Corrected on Feb.7, 2018: We had originally reporter that Christopher Shoemaker had purchased the former Foxenkill Tavern when it was actually purchased by his father, Richard Shoemaker, and his stepmother, Tracy Shoemaker.

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