Developer of Beacon Theater, Bird & Bottle purchases Beacon bar
News of this magnitude travels fast. Dogwood, the bohemian bar and music venue on the east end of Main Street, has a new owner.
“It breaks my heart, but for the last few years, many forces conspired against a business like this,” said George Mansfield, who co-founded Dogwood in 2012 with Tom Schmitz. “It was a difficult decision, but I can’t subsidize it anymore.”
Two months ago, Mansfield reached out to Brendan McAlpine, who revived the Beacon Theater and Wonderbar, the Bird & Bottle Inn in Garrison and a farm distillery in northern Dutchess County, to gauge his interest in purchasing the bar. McAlpine also helped his father, Robert McAlpine, refurbish the Roundhouse complex.
“People told my father that the Roundhouse would never work,” McAlpine said. “If acquiring a challenging place scared me, I would have no projects in my portfolio.”
Dogwood has been a saloon since around the 1880s, he said. An undated photo of the original wood frame building, constructed as early as the 1850s, shows a sign offering beer around the back and residences on the second floor. The current brick structure dates to 1932, Mansfield said.
McAlpine and his family have lived in Beacon since 2009. “I know Beacon and have seen it grow over the past 14 years,” he said. “Obviously, Dogwood is on the outskirts off Main Street, but it’s not a cliché that if you build it and do it to a high standard, people will find you.”
The deal happened fast, and McAlpine said he is still working out his vision. “Typically I walk into a new place and something jumps out right away,” he said. “At Wonderbar, it was Art Deco, brass, dark. Dogwood is trickier because it’s not a raw space or a place with a distinct look and feel, like Bird & Bottle. I’ll have to sit there alone for a few mornings.”
He said he would “most likely” keep the name. He may also hold on to the picture of a dog in a military uniform, the booths adorned with porcelain tiles by Beacon-based ModCraft, the Ron English posters that line the short hallway to the men’s room and the colored glass panels donated by Hudson Beach Glass that depict a dog bone.
McAlpine, who declined to say what he paid for the building, wants Beacon residents and visitors to rest easy: He plans to put his own stamp on the place but “the joke is that it’s not going to be a seafood bar with bottle service and private membership.”
The main difference will be in the operations, he said. A kitchen remodeling may be on the to-do list and certainly Bird & Bottle chef Kristian Meixner will expand the menu.
Dogwood also fostered an eclectic, rootsy music scene. “We’re committed to it, but probably not as much as they have been doing in the last couple of years,” said McAlpine. “But it’s still TBD [to be determined]. I’m pretty pragmatic, so if it works, we’ll keep it.”
He said the bar will still offer hand-drawn, English-style cask ales, 18 taps with local brews and maybe a pre-mixed cocktail or two.
In her 2017 book, What I Found in a Thousand Towns, singer and songwriter Dar Williams, who lives in Philipstown, cites Dogwood as “an example of how a perfect bar can be a place of gathering energy.” Its function as “a welcoming place at the community crossroads” adds value to the city and brings in people “old and new, worker and dreamer,” she wrote.
Mansfield, who has served on the City Council since 2009 but is not running this year for an eighth term, said he will retain ownership of Quinn’s, that other laid-back, quirky joint on Main Street known for adventurous music, wine by the can and Japanese soul food. There’s jazz every Monday and Kink Goth Night every month.
When Dogwood opened 11 years ago, Mansfield wanted it to be a place where people new to the community “could get a sense of its diverse variety,” he said. “I wanted it to be like an Irish or English pub, a third place beyond work and home where people gather to meet — and to complain.”
The original incarnation will remain open through Sept. 17; the final weekend will feature a “blowout” farewell, with at least 30 bands that have volunteered to perform, including some that are forming just for the event, Mansfield said.
“I envision a Last Waltz kind of thing with two stages, opening early and staying late,” he said. “When I told the staff about the sale, I figured they would get new jobs, but they’re sticking it out to celebrate this place and leave on a joyful note.”