TROY — Vic Christopher, the Collar City’s vocal restaurateur, was prepared to open his newly-branded restaurant last week before City Hall placed an all stop on his plans.
Christopher, who owns several popular eateries from inside The Clark House at 207 Broadway, was set to open the doors for the grand opening of Donna’s Italian and American Restaurant on Thursday, June 18. The new restaurant was to take the place of Peck’s Arcade.
Christopher said the closure came without warning and after he had invited city code officials and the new fire chief to inspect the four-story historic building. The Clark House is also home to Little Pecks, The Grocery and a second-story cocktail bar named The Tavern, which was already closed. The upper floors were under renovation with plans to re-open as socially distanced dining rooms sometime in the future.
Last month, Christopher shared with The Spot 518 his plans of a newly-envisioned eating experience adapted to expectations of safe social distancing to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. The restaurateur said he had sought and received approval from Troy before starting the renovation project. But, by Thursday evening, city officials placed a notice ordering the immediate closure of the entire building.
“I called the mayor multiple times,” Christopher said at a press conference from in front of his restaurant. “I said, ‘Mayor, you’ve been a customer here. I appreciate your support throughout the years, [but] you are making a mistake. This is wrong.”
City officials expressed concern with an incomplete staircase on the building’s first floor and cited the building as unsafe under the city’s code ordinance. Christopher said he was willing to close the staircase and close the Grocery to remain open for service. He ultimately asked if he could limit visitors to outside service, so long as he could maintain access to the kitchen.
The ordinance cited by the city appears to require the building to be closed outright until the issue is repaired. Lucas Confectionery, the adjacent wine bar at 12 Second St., remains open but without access to a kitchen.
Christopher’s hospitality business has helped revive Troy’s downtown life. He’s also been a visible proponent for other businesses. In the past several years, he was among the strongest supporters to usher in peer-to-peer ridesharing company Uber. He was also the loudest voice in support of a failed bid to bring a Bow Tie Cinema complex to fill the void left at the city’s Monument Square. Thursday, he expressed how the closure puts his business under a hardship that will cost him “thousands of dollars.” Christopher is now represented by E. Stewart Jones of Jones Hacker Murphy.
“To do this to a restaurant now, after all we’ve been through, just isn’t right. We’ll do what it takes to comply with code but we can’t afford to be shut down now,” Christopher said. “We just brought back seven staff members off of unemployment. We’ve been training our staff for weeks for our opening today. We’ve purchased thousands of dollars of food.”