Last call: Carney’s to close next month
BALLSTON LAKE A popular local haunt will close its doors next month after 30 years.
Rosemary Carney plans to retire from running Carney’s Tavern on Oct. 20, throwing a big party to celebrate the bar and restaurant’s last day.
Carney owns the 17 Main St. building, which dates from at least 1845, and said Tuesday she doesn’t know yet whether she’ll sell the business.
“We haven’t made any plans,” Carney said. “I live in town and there’s been no decision or not even much thought given” to the future.
But she added she didn’t plan to let the building sit empty. “I’m committed to keeping this building open and functional.”
Carney’s husband, Robert, died in February. The couple ran the Irish pub together for 30 years, starting with fixing up the building.
“When we took it over, it was really run-down.”
The business has been a family affair with her grown children as well. Her son Alexander has been the restaurant’s chef for 22 years, and her daughter Jennifer Craig works in the office part time.
Longtime staffers have been part of the family also, she said, including bartender Kathleen Smith. Ever since bartender Danny Ward died unexpectedly in 2009, the restaurant sponsors a 5K race in his memory and raises money for scholarships for students going into the hospitality field. The race is planned this year for Sept. 22.
“We’re quite proud of that,” Carney said.
The tavern is known for its annual St. Patrick’s Day party, and the farewell party on Oct. 20 will be similar, Carney said. Customers and former and current staff are all invited.
It will be a time for her, the staff and the pub’s many regular customers to say goodbye.
“We have families who started coming here years ago when their kids were young and now they’re in college,” Carney said.
About 10 to 15 groups regularly meet in the tavern. The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake class of 1966 held its reunion there just on Saturday.
Carney’s is a place to catch up with neighbors and hear local news, said Ballston town historian Rick Reynolds.
“I always describe it as a local Cheers,” he said, referring to the friendly neighborhood bar in the classic TV show. “So many people in this community go in there to sit at the bar and have a meal or just talk.”
Carney plans to relax in her retirement and spend time with her family, including six grandchildren, and travel.
“She deserves to have some time for herself,” Reynolds said.
The building has seen various incarnations, starting as a saloon and later becoming a barber shop and grocery, Reynolds said. “It’s been a hotel or a restaurant basically since 1887.”
Since the tavern sits right along the railroad tracks, its front porch was a good perch to watch trains roll through town in the early 1900s. Tourists rode the train north to the Forest Park amusement park, decked in their Victorian finest, Reynolds said, and people on the front porch would wave to the riders, welcoming them to Ballston Lake.
But the most famous bit of local lore about the hotel/restaurant may be a tall tale. Local legend has it that Theodore Roosevelt stopped there for a bite to eat and to use the telephone on his famed train ride from North Creek after finding out that President William McKinley died from a gunshot wound in Buffalo.
Roosevelt was on his way to be sworn in as president after a hunting trip in the Adirondacks.
Recent research by Carolyn and Don Keefer suggests that tale is untrue, that Roosevelt’s train more likely went through Ballston Spa and Mechanicville to Albany rather than through Ballston Lake to Schenectady.
“Sometimes things change when new evidence comes up,” Reynolds said.