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After more than three years, Liz Altrock is finally ready. Blessings Tavern in Colonie is ready to re-open its doors.
As most people in the Capital Region know, the small local bar was the site of a horrific crash and fire that ultimately claimed the life of Colonie High School student Niko DiNovo. The community rallied around the DiNovo family and Altrock, the owner of the beloved establishment that drew a regular crowd of interesting characters.
Blessings was one of those places where you never knew who you would run into. On any given night there were town board members, attorneys and off-duty law enforcement officers sitting elbow to elbow with a colorful cast of local neighborhood residents. Great bands would pack the place, and karaoke nights were always a source of entertainment. The buzz was always about how great the food was, from an extensive soup menu to traditional specials for holidays, but the real draw was that it was a place where everyone was welcome. Bartenders were on a first name basis with almost every person who walked in the door, and knew what their customers would be drinking before they even ordered.
When the place burned down, and was later demolished, the crowd scattered to different places around Colonie. The bartending staff picked up shifts elsewhere. Liz battled zoning laws that had changed since Ed Blessing first opened the doors in what was then a largely rural area. When the variances were granted, and the rebuilding effort finally came to life, cars would slow down to check out the latest additions, from the foundation to the landscaping. When the Christmas lights went up, it was a sure sign the opening is near.
The old Blessings was a non-descript white ranch style building that didn’t even have a sign on it for many years. When we first moved into our home a block away, I had to actually look up the name of the place and call and see what the heck “Blessings 3Bs” was (the 3Bs referred to the three Blessing children). The new establishment is gorgeous and brand new, appropriately named “Blessings Tavern II”. Liz says she grew up on a farm and wanted a rustic farmhouse look, and incorporated exposed beams, a fireplace, natural landscaping, and earthy tones. While it is completely different in appearance, it still maintains that homey, welcoming feel of an old, small town bar. The small, side parking lot that was the site of the crash has been beautifully landscaped with flowers, shrubs and rocks, and includes a handicapped accessible ramp and covered porch that didn’t exist before. Inside, the layout has changed. The bar is now off to the left side, and the dining area is spacious with much more seating. The roof is higher and lets in a ton of natural light.
Not a single item survived the fire and demolition. But Liz had saved some of the things Ed Blessing had given her when she bought the place from him in 1983. They hang on the wall near the door, in remembrance of the tavern’s history.
The opening is near. Staff is training, and before long, the barstools will be occupied by the old regulars and probably some new faces. A soft opening is in the works to give the new bar and waitstaff a chance to prepare for the lively crowds. Look for news of the grand opening, and stop in and check out the new Blessings. You never know who you’ll find yourself sitting next to.
Photo: Kelly Lynch/WGY