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New owner, new plan

September 21, 2013

by Lauren Halligan

Jugs and Mugs, the new bar and restaurant that plans to make roadhouse barbeque and beer served in mugs and growlers its signature, opened this month on Madison Avenue.

Jugs and Mugs is housed in the space once occupied by college bar Sadie Klutz at 849 Madison Ave. For more than a year the space was vacant after Sadie Klutz was shut down for not complying with regulations, including serving alcohol to underage students.

Owner Dave Cardona in front of the bar restaurant. Photo by Lauren Halligan.

Instead, Cardona and Executive Chef Chick Hawksley, a passionate culinary artist who has been in the restaurant business for 41 years, put his heart and soul into the restaurant’s roadhouse Americana cuisine.“I want to take your standard classic comfort food and kick it right through the roof,” Hawksley said.

The Jugs and Mugs menu has a Southern roadhouse barbeque style. This is Cardona’s first endeavor in the restaurant business.

“I think our food is unique, certainly different than what you’ll find in most places,” Cardona said. “We’re doing jambalaya. We’re doing meatloaf. We’re doing open-faced Reubens with homemade slaw on them.”

With entrees such as The Juggernaut, topped with pulled pork, jalapeno-jack cheese, fried onions and a side of barbeque sauce or the Big Honkin Reuben, a grilled open faced sandwich with fresh house-made sauerkraut and “an obscene amount of corned beef and cheese,” the menu has hearty options for their new patrons.

“We’re bringing the slow food revolution to Albany,” Hawksley said, referring to the movement opposing fast food, rather preserving culinary traditions in an eco-friendly way. “We’re pickling our own corned beef for cryin’ out loud,” he said. “We do everything in small batches from scratch,” Hawksley said. “We are always on the verge of running out of red eye gravy, because I only make it I little bit at a time. Nothing sits.” Hawksley will also personally cater to anyone with a special diet or allergy.

“Instead of being a rowdy college bar with late night mozzarella sticks and cheap frozen chicken wings, what we want to be is we want to be a nice, different restaurant that has a bar that anyone who goes to college that’s 21-years old and older can come in and enjoy our specials,” Cardona said. “The older college students deserve that.”

The down-to-Earth and comfortable environment, complete with cozy window nooks cushioned with pillows makes an evening out sort of feel like home.

Front house manager Lynida Hull reiterated that Jugs and Mugs is “not just a bar for college kids.”

“The atmosphere is behaved,” owner David Cardona said, proud that of the 97 IDs swiped through their license-reading machine on the business’s first two nights, not one was underage. However, those who are not of legal drinking age are welcome to enjoy the cuisine in the dining room.

Unlike Saidie Klutz, which was repeatedly reprimanded by the city for breaking the law, “We want to make sure we’re doing everything by the rules,” Cardona added.

Bar Manager Nadine Reutzel said that they’re aiming for a 30-and-older crowd. In an effort to keep the Jugs and Mugs drink selections more mature, Reutzel keeps the bar stocked with “crafty beer and liquor.” Behind the bar, she uses lesser-known brands such as Cracken spiced rum instead of Captain Morgan. Jugs and Mugs offers 20 different bottled beers and 12 craft beers.

A popular drink choice at Jugs and Mugs is the ever-running Corona special. “We have $2 Coronas all the time. Every time the doors open,” Cardona said. Elsewhere in town, at the Washington Tavern, Coronas cost as much as $5.25. The bar completely sold out on opening night, Wednesday, Sept. 4, instead offering Heinekens for the same sale price.

For football season, Jugs and Mugs is also offering $1.50 Labatt drafts every time a football game is on, which is generally all Sunday afternoons, evenings, and nights.

Unique drinks such as Beer-mosas and peach margaritas were also chalked on the special board in the restaurant’s opening week.

However, beer is the main attraction at Jugs and Mugs. “Although it’s the same beer you’re going to get someplace else, it’s served a little differently.” Beverages can be served in 25 oz. mugs or big growler jugs, which hold 64 oz., nearly as much alcohol as a standard 6-pack of beer. The growlers, with the Jugs and Mugs logo printed on the side, are a take-home only, due to liquor authority law. Growlers cost $21 to buy full with draft beer, and $12 to refill. Selling growlers allows Jugs and Mugs to also appeal to the at-home drinker.

Inside the bar. Photo by Lauren Halligan.

Though some will still peg it as a bar for college students, Cardona said, “Well, yeah after 9 o’clock at night chances are 90% of the people in it are going to be college students. If that means it’s a college bar, then you can call it a college bar, but in my mind – what I used to go to – is where you were drinking 50 cent or dollar beers in plastic cups and spilling them all over the place. That’s not what it is.”

Some in the neighborhood were misled the business’s name and signage, suspecting that Cardona’s use of the word “jugs” was less than pure. Addressing the confusion about the establishment, “This is not a Hooters by any means,” Hull said.

“A friend of mine actually came up with the name,” Cardona said. This friend, who works with a beer company, noticed that the neighborhood was lacking a bar that served all different kinds of beers in big containers. “So, he said, ‘how about Jugs and Mugs?’ and I said, ‘Sounds like a great idea,” Cardona explained. “It sounds like a place that you drink a lot of beer.”

When he later saw the logo, Cardona liked its old-fashioned style, and he went with it.

The simple, black and white business logo features a cartoon young female with accentuated curves, holding a beer mug while sitting on a beer barrel in a pin-up girl pose. The woman has a closed-lipped smirk on her face, and a tattoo of a Z on her arm. Growlers are also featured in the scene.

When negative accusations came in, some through letters and emails to the Board of Zoning Appeals, that the business was promoting something other than large beer containers and good food, “I never even thought about it, because that not what I was doing,” he said. “That’s not me. That’s not my family. That’s not who I am.”

Though some were unhappy, Cardona kept the name and logo, with confidence in his original vision. “I felt like I was admitting guilt for something that I didn’t do wrong if I changed the name. So I kept it and went with it. I’m not that type of person, that wasn’t my intention,” Cardona said.

Brad Glass in Albany’s Office of Land Use Planning said that because the business proposed to open a tavern and stay open later than normal, Jugs and Mugs had to be reviewed for a special permit. “Bars require a special permit in that particular zoning district,” Glass said.

At Zoning Board meeting on Aug. 28, the board took the case under consideration, and the action was taken to approve the special use permits Jugs and Mugs requested. The permits stated that the City of Albany Zoning Ordinance will allow Jugs and Mugs, classified as a tavern, to occupy the approximate 2,150 square foot commercial structure at the premise, and have closing hours of midnight Sunday through Tuesday and 2 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Any business that is open between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. is required to obtain a special use permit in the C-1 Neighborhood Commercial zoning district.

Five members voted: four approved the permits and one opposed. The opposing member was Joseph Ray, who is also a Pine Hills neighborhood crossing guard.

The Board of Zoning Appeals evaluated the use of the establishment, but their decision did not concern the Jugs and Mugs title or logo, “There are free speech laws surrounding stuff like that,” Glass said.

Jeff Jamison, director of Buildings and Regulatory Compliance, said that the issue of the name and logo are not under regulation of the Board of Zoning Appeals or his office, which can only approve or disapprove of the use of the property. With this duty in mind, “It’s much better to have a vibrant building than a vacant building, regardless of the name,” Jamison said.

Jamison, who was at Jugs and Mugs on the bar’s opening night, said “I think that Dave Cardona has a very good reputation and I expect that he will make sure to keep that well-maintained.” Cardona is a native of the Capital Region.

Though members of the Board of Zoning Appeals, “expressed their disappointment about the name,” the board supported the use and approved the permits, Jamison said.

Members of the public also made it a point to express their disappointment to the Board of Zoning appeals.

Nan Thomas, a Pine Hills resident for the past three years said “I thought the name was kind of demeaning alongside the logo.” Like others, she interpreted the art as “evidence that they weren’t talking about mason jars in terms of the jugs they were referring to.” Unhappy with this image representing her community she referred to it as tasteless and “something that appeals to a lower level of the social strata.”

Not alone in her thinking, Thomas said she was told by a member of the Board of Zoning Appeals that there were many letters and emails sent to the board expressing their concern.

In addition to writing an email of her own, Thomas went a step further and attended the meeting where the proposal was put forth and spoke out against Jugs and Mugs, with their suggestive name and logo, coming to the neighborhood.

“It’s really a matter of wanting the neighborhood to create a good image of itself to the larger community,” Thomas said.

“We can do better than that,” Thomas said. “I think we have legitimacy, we want a nice establishment.”

In favor of a restaurant or another establishment in place of the formerly vacant space, Thomas said that Jugs and Mugs could be that nice establishment and appeal to a wider audience of potential customers, if it weren’t promoting “to a less mature crowd.” Thomas sensed that Jugs and Mugs are catering to a younger demographic, particularly college students.

Aware of Cardona’s thought process regarding why he didn’t change the business name, as he explained it at the Board of Zoning Appeals meeting, Thomas said she wishes Cardona would have respected the neighbors. “That would have gone far.”

“It would have been nice had he listened to us, and changed the logo, so it’s not so suggestive,” Thomas said.

Although Cardona stuck with the name and logo that he knew had created some neighborhood upset, “I hope everybody comes in and gives us a shot,” Cardona said.

Keeping an open mind, “I’m not at all one to carry a grudge,” Thomas said, “I will definitely check it out.”

Though she isn’t thrilled about the name and logo in her neighborhood, calling it a poor combination, “It’s really not so blatantly offensive,” Thomas said. With big-name chains like Hooters, she noted that “This isn’t a first time situation,” although it certainly is for the Pine Hills neighborhood.

One University at Albany student, Olivia Fuller, said that she and her friends stumbled upon opening night at Jugs and Mugs while out to celebrating two of her friend’s twenty-first birthdays. “We weren’t exactly sure what we were getting ourselves into,” Fuller said. “One friend’s immediate impression was that it was going to be some sort of Hooters or something, thinking that jugs meant something other than growlers. The girl on the logo has an emphasized cleavage and mischievous smile,” she said.

The draft selection at Jugs and Mugs. Photo by Lauren Halligan.

The draft selection at Jugs and Mugs. Photo by Lauren Halligan.

Once Fuller and her party stepped inside, “We figured out that it wasn’t that type of place, but the air of mystery certainly drew us in,” she said. “After taking advantage of the $2 Coronas, the gentleman there came to our table to give the birthday boy and girl each their own free jug. It was a pretty nice way to end our night.”

Despite negative accusations, Cardona plans to run a “good, clean, safe place for people to come and enjoy great food, great sports events on TV,” and most importantly “big huge jugs and big huge mugs of beer.”

Aside from Saturday brunch beginning at 8 a.m., Jugs and Mugs opens at 11 a.m. daily, closing at midnight Sunday through Wednesday, and 2 a.m. on the weekends. The restaurant’s telephone number is 621-7031.

Jugs and Mugs can also be found on Facebook at An official website for the business is currently in the works. -30-


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