SCHENECTADY

Daley’s on Yates opens in ex-taxi garage

Long-running construction project comes to fruition

BY JOHN CROPLEY Gazette Business Editor
 
 The wait for a table is over on Yates Street.
 
 Hundreds of diners sat down at the soft opening of Daley’s on Yates last week, and the partners behind the long-running project will officially cut the ribbon Thursday.
 
 The new restaurant draws heavily on decades of experience accrued by the owners — from running restaurants and a catering service — and from enjoying meals at other operations.
 
 Their wish list ran up the cost of converting an old taxi garage to $1.6 million and ran the timeline nine months longer than expected.
 
 “If you look around, you can see why it took us so long,” said Marty Keary, one of the partners. “Every time we started to do a new element, we look around and go, ‘Wouldn’t this look great with this?’ It’s kind of our way.”
 
 The cast that designed, owns and operates Daley’s on Yates is large and extends through marriage and friendship; most are connected in some way to Old Daley Custom Catering or The Old Daley Inn at Crooked Lake.
 
 The saga starts at the Old Daley Inn, a Troy steakhouse Gene Coletti opened in 1972, built to regional fame, then closed after 26 years to concentrate on the catering side of the business.
 
 Coletti is another of the new restaurant’s co-owners, as is Jim Pettit, who started in the Troy restaurant many years ago as a dishwasher and eventually did every other job there. He’s now the chief financial officer of Daley’s on Yates.
 
 Looking back Tuesday, Pettit said having so many people with so much experience working on the project is what made it turn out so well, and also what made it take so long and cost so much.
 
 Designing as they went along, he said, was a bit naive.
 
 But it is a strikingly handsome finished product, and it functions well. The sound system is among the features that kept getting refined over the year-plus of construction. Music was playing as three of the partners sat down with The Daily Gazette on Tuesday, yet their voices were plainly audible. And the music was crystal-clear, despite all the hard surfaces that normally create harsh echoes.
 
 That is possible with care and expense, Pettit said, and was inspired by a Bobby Flay restaurant he visited in New York City.
 
 “Why is the music so [much a] part of this experience, but I don’t feel like I’m having a problem conversing?” he recalls thinking.
 
 Then there’s 2,000 light bulbs throughout the building, including a micro spotlight over each table so menus are legible even when the room lights are dim.
 
 Overhead doors connect the patio to the dining room, and with a solid fence just a bit taller than the average person, the parking lot beyond is invisible.
 
 Fire pits outside and a fireplace inside build the atmosphere.
 
 The kitchen is packed with features that most diners will never notice — even though it’s open to the dining room — but will make an experienced chef nod in appreciation.
 
 The ironic thing about pouring money into the components of an atmosphere or an experience is that, if it succeeds, guests should barely notice all those components individually.
 
 Pettit’s wife, Steph, (also part of the partnership) summed it up: “They shouldn’t notice any of it — they should just have a feeling.”
 
 And that feeling, or atmosphere, or vibe, is best described as “industrial swank” at Daley’s On Yates.
 
 “What we heard most so far is that the vibe down here is so cool,” said Keary. “We like to think of it as a really beautiful oasis in the middle of everything that’s going on it Schenectady.”
 
 The restaurant had an unadvertised soft opening June 14-16; 225 guests attended the first night.
 
 These will be the regular days of operation: Dinner only on Thursday through Saturday. Sunday brunch will be added very soon.
 
 Dinner won’t be served Sunday through Wednesday, and lunch won’t be served at all. The revenue stream wouldn’t justify the cost of lunch staffing and production, Pettit said.
 
 “There’s a business multiple that goes into this, and I think that’s why a lot of restaurants fall into trouble … they don’t understand where their break-evens are,” he said.
 
 The executive chef is Elliott Vogel, and the menu is an eclectic mix drawn from the various Daley operations over the years, plus favorites the various partners have eaten elsewhere.
 
 Entrees range from a $14 burger to a $42 filet, with vegetarian, seafood and pizza options in between. The liquid menu at the two bars is even broader in detail and price.
 
 The partners say more fine-tuning is in the works, particularly to make the patio more usable in less favorable weather.
 
 Look for an ice bar out there in the winter.
PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER Chef Elliott Vogel prepares oysters at Daley’s on Yates on Wednesday.

PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER The dining area at Daley’s on Yates in Schenectady used to be an old taxi cab garage.