BY BRETT SAMUELS, The Daily Gazette
A local business owner has purchased the historic Union Inn in Schenectady with plans to renovate and reopen the bar.
Phil Ruggiero, owner of Nico’s Pizzeria on State Street, bought the building at 517 Union St. with plans to fix it up and reopen it under the same name. The Union Inn closed in 2014 after flood damage forced the owners to shut it down. The city council authorized the sale Monday night.
“I remember going to the Union Inn 20 years ago. I noticed it had been run-down for a while,” Ruggiero said. “I thought it would be a great opportunity to bring it back to what it was. I think it’s a great location with a lot of potential.”
The building and its foundation are in rough shape, Ruggiero said. He’s still working with architects and engineers to figure out what the renovation costs will amount to, but he’s willing to put the money into fixing it, he said.
“At the end of the day, it’s a good project,” he said.
Ruggiero said he expects to start planning renovations in January and believes it will take roughly three to five months of work before it’s ready to reopen. He’s aiming to have the business up and running by the middle of 2017, he said.
Ruggiero said the bar will serve pizza and other tavern food, and there’s an outdoor space that comes with the property that he hopes to use.
“Being in Schenectady for so long, it would just be nice to bring that back,” he said. “One of the things I enjoy is the history of the area. It’s a shame to let that building just sit there.”
The Union Inn is on the National Register of Historic Places. The building dates to at least the 1860s, and was sold around the Prohibition Era to a man named Anthony De Siena. The business was listed in the city directory as a saloon and café in 1918 and then was reclassified under “soft drinks,” after Prohibition laws took hold, said Michael Maloney, the archivist with the Schenectady County Historical Society.
Documents list De Siena as having a rum charge in 1930 under a state nuisance act, Maloney said. Records and rooms in the building’s basement suggest the Union Inn operated as a speakeasy.
The city sold the building for $100,000, said City Council President Leesa Perazzo.
Perazzo said Ruggiero has a good reputation and has shown his commitment to the local business community with his work at Nico’s. The pizzeria, located at 441 State St., opened about 20 years ago and expanded in 2013 to include a rooftop tavern.
In addition to getting the vacant property back on the tax rolls, Perazzo said the building’s history makes the development particularly exciting.
“Adding new life to an old building that’s been lifeless for a couple of years is always a celebration,” she said.