Acoustic music-lovers of the mid-Hudson, rejoice! The Towne Crier Café will soon be moving from its longtime home in Pawling. And the terrifying rumors that it might be headed for faraway Westchester or Connecticut have turned out to be untrue. In fact, the club’s new site will be considerably more convenient for many local residents: It’s coming to Beacon.
The beloved folk/blues/jazz/world music venue opened in an old general store in Beekman in 1972 and flourished there for 16 years before a brief stint at Allyn’s in Millbrook, followed by nearly a quarter-century at its present home on Route 22 near the Dutchess/Putnam County border. Just about one year ago, proprietor Phil Ciganer announced that the Crier had been given notice by its landlord that its lease would not be renewed and that it needed to find new quarters.
Since then, the music has played on, month-to-month, as an exhaustive search for the optimal location ensued, with many communities reportedly wooing Ciganer to move the club further south or east. Citizens even organized a petition drive asking the government of one Connecticut town to offer special incentives to bring the Crier there.
In his heart of hearts, Ciganer now confesses, he always really wanted to come back to Dutchess County. But he has been playing his cards close to his chest about his final choice of location. An e-mail blast went out to the Crier’s mailing list in late December, promising the long-awaited revelation at the club’s New Year’s Eve concert. And then 2013 dawned with no onstage announcement, no press release, no update on the website.
But now it can be told: What was holding up the big news most recently turned out merely to be some routine delays in the permitting process from the City of Beacon. And on Tuesday, January 8, the Beacon Planning Board gave conditional Site Plan Approval to Ciganer’s application to renovate the former Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) building at 381 Main Street and move the Towne Crier in. The conditions were minor, including things like adding a handicapped access ramp at the building’s rear entrance. So it’s good to go.
Ciganer has no complaints about the City bureaucracy; on the contrary, he’s full of praise for what will be the Crier’s new hometown. “They seem to be pretty together in Beacon – very welcoming to new businesses,” he says. “It’s a happening little community. It has changed a lot in the last ten years. It’s full of life, with a lot of people moving there.”
He cites the opening of Dia:Beacon on the waterfront and the burgeoning art gallery scene as signs of a community on its way to becoming a major cultural hub for the mid-Hudson. The fact that Beacon is accessible via Metro North’s Hudson Line from either north or south is also a big plus. “We might even consider having an in-house shuttle to meet train arrivals, as well as the ferry from Newburgh,” the seasoned impresario speculates.
The former DMV office is a stone structure in need of a serious overhaul, says Ciganer, who is about to sign a long-term lease on half the building. He expects the process to take four to six months to complete. “We have to build the place, essentially. It’s the right space that we have to outfit. There’s no kitchen. It’s a blank canvas.” He envisions a modular floor plan with movable walls that can adapt the size of the listening space to how big a draw a particular act might be, thereby preserving the club’s long reputation as a cozy, intimate place to hear music.
“We’re applying 40 years of history and experience to this project,” says Ciganer, who scoffs at any hint that he might ever be able to retire – or want to. “We’re building the club of the future!”
In the meantime, concerts with topnotch acoustic acts will continue every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening at the Pawling venue, with open-mic nights on Wednesdays and Thursdays. That’s not to mention the tasty, eclectic bistro-style cooking, fine selection of beers on tap and Mary Murphy Ciganer’s legendary cakes. Visit http://townecrier.com to check out the latest lineup, and call (845) 855-1300 for reservations.