Sunday, July 16, 2006

Bring in the relief pitcher

Dale Easter just can’t seem to get a break. For more than six months now, the long-time owner and part-time fixture at Professor Moriarty’s on Broadway has been trying to off-load the flailing business he’s owned for nearly two decades. And he almost had a deal too, until the question of rent came up.

For those unfamiliar with Moriarity’s, it’s the visibly deteriorating beer-and-burger joint at the mouth of the Spa City’s Bourbon Street. At one point, Sherlock Holmes-themed eatery was one of the most popular in town, drawing a bar crowd three deep during the summers and grossing over a million dollars in annual sales. But for years now, Moriarity’s has languished due to its unbelievably high overhead and some gross mismanagement.

Initially, Moriarty’s –the business itself –was given a price tag somewhere in the range of $500,000; the gold-mine location is leased by Bill Walbridge, who coincidentally owns the Walbridge Building. Given the restaurant’s present lack-luster condition, however, he was ended up knocking a good $200,000 off the asking price, which attracted buyer Laura LaPoint, the estranged wife of former lack-luster Major League Baseball pitcher Dave LaPoint; or at least that’s the word on the street.

For those who don’t know either LaPoint, Dave was the southpaw in the pitching rotation of the 1982 St. Louis Cardinals, which went on to win the World Series in seven games against the Milwaukee Brewers. Later in his career, he pitched for two of the worst New York Yankees teams ever assembled in ball club history. Sometime after retiring in 1991, he landed up back in his native Glens Falls and opened Pitcher’s, a sports bar venue known for its live entertainment acts.

The business was later taken over by Laura, who operated it until 2005, when it was apparently sold to the Mehalick family and renamed Hotshots. Some say the business took quite a hit in its later years due partially to a bad crowd and couple of staffers slinging dope from behind the bar, but that’s largely hearsay.

Nevertheless, lady LaPoint was poised to dive back into the restaurant business full bore until she saw what Walbridge intended charge her for rent –to put this into a prospective business owner’s perspective, the location rented for about $4,500 a month just under a decade ago. Now, the whole deal is reportedly up in the air, although the most recent word on the street is that landlord and tenant have come to agreeable terms.

Hopefully the deal goes through for the sake of the location, which is one of the more prominent in the city. Now, it’s in dire need of a $10,000 facelift to succeed; And a pre-sale disagreement over rent is not a good indicator for a joint on the mend.

This might sound like a trivial business brief that’s been overly expounded with the minutia of a generally overlooked professional baseball career. But failed business deals resulting from the high Broadway rents are indicative of the disaster that’s slowly unfolding downtown. Local businesses simply can’t afford the astronomical rents and, thanks to rising property taxes, landlords aren’t likely to stop raising them any time soon.

So who gets off cheap? Look no further than the monolithic buildings being erected throughout the city. Most of the builders made sweetheart deals with the city so they’re afforded a massive tax break for the first decade after their construction. While this is a standard business practice to promote development, it’s also has the effect of short changing the many businesses that helped pull the Spa City from the ashes back during the 70s.

There’s no easy solution to solve this conundrum of high rents on Broadway and the increasing number of businesses that can’t afford them. And if something isn’t done soon, look forward to a main street lined with chain stores, such as Applebee’s and TGI Friday’s, which can afford the high overhead and not have to worry about where next month’s rent money is going to come from.


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