SACKETS HARBOR — A new chicken and bourbon restaurant is set to open in the village soon, bringing with it bold flavors and a fun atmosphere to liven up downtown — even as winter approaches.
The Whiskey Coop, which will occupy the spot in front of The Sackets Boathouse formerly known as the Upper Deck, 214½ W. Main St., is set to open to the public on Sept. 23.
Why whiskey and chicken? According to owner Cheryl M. Chaif, she, along with her husband Ryan N. Chaif, went on a trip to Nashville a few years ago and fell in love with the food scene there. She said the idea for The Whiskey Coop has been percolating ever since.
Mrs. Chaif is the owner of Hops Spot locations in both Syracuse and Clayton, and was the owner of the original location in Sackets when it was in operation at the same location The Whiskey Coop will soon occupy.
The Chaifs live in Sackets Harbor, and Mrs. Chaif grew up here, so she decided to return to where it all began to open her latest business venture.
“Because we live in Sackets and so many restaurants are closed in Sackets right now — the Upper Deck didn’t reopen, The Anchor burned down, Tin Pan (Galley) didn’t open — we personally, as restaurant customers, have really been feeling the struggle of wanting to go out to eat this summer and having nothing available or having really long wait times in the village because 50% of the restaurants were just down and out this year,” Mrs. Chaif said. “We decided, as residents of this community, we want to have another dining option just to take some of the pressure off of those long wait times and all the rest of it. Sackets just needs more.
“We’ve always had six or more restaurants at a time and having just the three this summer was just kind of a sad reflection of the times.”
As one can imagine, opening a new business during a pandemic is not easy.
Due to the small space of the restaurant, and the health and safety guidelines that must be followed, The Whiskey Coop will have limited seating capacity, but according to Mrs. Chaif, the restaurant will offer takeout and will put heaters out on the patio in order to encourage outdoor seating for as long as possible.
Guests will be able to call from their cars when they arrive and will receive a call back when their tables are ready for them.
“We hope that we can hobble along through until the next year and I think the community support is there and we’ll be able to run with that limited seating capacity until things warm up and we can welcome people back outside on the patio,” Mrs. Chaif said. “I guess the biggest fear is another shutdown, but you just weather that storm as it comes. These are the times we’re living in.”
Mrs. Chaif’s Hops Spot locations have been doing well this summer. The Clayton location is boasting lots of outdoor seating, and the Syracuse restaurant is able to have diners sit out in a street the city had opened up for restaurant seating.
With both restaurants in opposite directions from Sackets Harbor, Mrs. Chaif said she thinks people are looking forward to the Sackets return.
For the first week after opening, things will be pretty low-key so all involved can get their legs underneath them and make sure they’re as prepared as possible. Since the space is small and the off-season quickly approaches, the restaurant will have about eight employees, consisting of current Hops Spot staff members.
“We have our signature chicken and waffles that comes with our Cajun butter and bourbon maple syrup that I’m sure a lot of people will be familiar with because it’s been on our brunch menu for years,” Mrs. Chaif said of The Whiskey Coop’s food menu. “We have some awesome new chicken sandwiches coming out; we’re gonna do some flatbreads; we’ve got a great bourbon braised pork belly appetizer too.”
As for drinks, while St. Lawrence Spirits Distillery & Château, 38289 Route 12E, Clayton, will be featured on the menu along with some other local distilleries, the restaurant will also be bringing in bourbons, scotches and whiskeys from all over. This will help build the menu up to make it “one of the best whiskey menus around.”
Furnishings and decorations for the space are being wrapped up and the space will feature items both ordered and collected. St. Lawrence Spirits Distillery & Château has donated some barrel tops to adorn the walls.
Restaurant hours may need to be adjusted, but the initial plan is to have the restaurant open for dinner on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays beginning at 4 p.m.; open at noon on Saturdays; and open for brunch on Sundays beginning at 9 a.m. Mrs. Chaif estimates the restaurant will close at about 9 p.m. most days.
“We’re excited to be back in Sackets Harbor,” Mrs. Chaif said. “We really are looking forward to a nice fall in our hometown.”