Copake toasts tavern plan’s approval

COPAKE—Sometime in the foreseeable future, customers will be able to belly-up to a bar in the hamlet and order a cold one.
It has been quite a few years since there was a watering hole here, but at the August 6 Copake Planning Board meeting Gurprit “Gary” Singh received approval to move ahead with his plan to renovate the now yellow, sad-looking building that was once the Holsapple House, King’s Steak House and JJ’s Pizza. Mr. Singh plans to turn it into a tavern and liquor store. The tavern will also serve food.
Mr. Singh also owns the Copake Sunoco gas station/convenience store next door and has been a business owner in the hamlet for about 20 years. He bought the tavern building in 2004 and now plans to renovate it.
The project involves removing the old building’s attic and second floor and renovating the single remaining ground floor on the same building footprint.
The siding will be vinyl clapboard in a neutral color and the parking lot, which will accommodate about 30 cars, is located behind the building off Empire Road.
Simran Singh, Mr. Singh’s wife, told The Columbia Paper by phone this week that the establishment will be called the Copake Sports Bar. She said the entire project will take about six months to complete.
Currently the building is sound but uninhabitable, according to structural engineer Daniel Wheeler, who
spoke at the July 16 Planning Board meeting when the public hearing was opened.
Other speakers at the July meeting voiced concern that modernizing the old building would somehow impact the Copake Grange #935, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. But Grange Master Bill Newcomb said in a letter he expected the project would have no impact on the grange.
Town resident Hilarie Thomas, a member of the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), said the proposed building looks like a pole barn, appears industrial and doesn’t have any rural charm, according to the July meeting minutes. A porch, overhang, dormers and trim were suggested as elements that might “soften” the building’s appearance.
Others, including Town Supervisor Jeff Nayer, noted that the suggested details would bring an added
cost factor to the project. Town resident Frank Peteroy, also a ZBA member, said the new building does not comply with the town’s Comprehensive Plan, the minutes said. But Mr. Singh’s engineer, Pat
Prendergast, noted that the comp plan does not require that specific architectural dimensions be followed, the minutes said.
There was also concern that the building did not fit in with the town’s hamlet plan, currently being developed by the Hamlet Revitalization Task Force (HRTF) with the aid of consultants.
When the public hearing on the Singh project resumed August 6, the audience was filled with many project supporters.
Mr. Prendergast introduced a rendering of front of the building done by architect Gray Davis, which
addressed how the building aesthetics could be improved. He told the board Mr. Singh liked the sketch
and, if the board did too, he would agree to the changes.
Planning Board member Chris Grant noted that the sketch was a “big improvement.”
Roberta Roll, chair of the HRTF, said since the hamlet plan is only in draft form, it would be premature to take a stand on the Singh project, but she did say the taskforce is in support of bringing new business to town.
Muriel Muldorf, a third generation town resident, said she watched the “terrible deterioration” of the hamlet over the years, noting her preference to shop in Hillsdale because, “Copake sucks.” She said Mr. Singh is trying to improve the hamlet and the board should approve his project.
Copake Fire Chief David Proper said the old wood-framed building as it stands now “is a firemen’s
nightmare.” He said if it were to catch fire it would put all other hamlet buildings in jeopardy. He asked the board to approve the new structure, which will be built to modern codes, because it will benefit townspeople, firefighters and Mr. Singh.
Mr. Nayer said the board had asked Mr. Singh to go back to the drawing board and, with the help of Mr.
Davis, he came back with an aesthetically pleasing alternative. The supervisor pointed to Mr. Singh’s willingness to work with the town and called the project a win-win situation.
“The town does not suck; the town is rebuilding. It may not be what it was 80 years ago, but things will keep opening up,” he said.
Local businesspeople David Valden, who owns the Church Street Deli and Pizza, Mike Fallon, who owns the Copake Auction, Marcia Peteroy, who owns the Sunset/Sunrise B & B, Lindsay LeBrecht of Copake Lake Realty, all spoke in favor of the project, asking the board to approve it.
Joe LaPorta, a local electrician, said he did not believe anyone present opposed the project. “The
majority says, let’s let him do it and let’s help the town out,” he said.
Planning Board Chairman Bob Haight motioned to approve the plan drawn by Gray Davis with a list of
specific features. All members voted in favor with the exception of Mr. Grant. The parking lot must be paved under town code unless Mr. Singh can get relief from the ZBA to keep it gravel.
A round of applause broke out upon the approval and many offered congratulations to Mr. Singh.
To contact Diane Valden email

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