Tivoli’s shuttered Black Swan pub may re-emerge

The demise of the Black Swan pub in Tivoli has left a bit of regret along with a big question: is it really closed for good?

Landlord Gerard Hurley, who originally opened the bar in 2001 and who evicted the current owner last month, said he has plans to reopen the bar, which was a popular Bard College student hangout.

The bar’s swan song began with a Dec. 7 raid by the New York State Liquor Authority and Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office that resulted in an emergency summary order of suspension five days later, along with 18 violations that the SLA said included “underage sales, unlicensed bouncers, paying employees off the books, and failure to supervise the premises.”

Bar owner Michael Nickerson then began a campaign on the fundraising website Indiegogo to raise the money needed to reopen the bar. Donations from 477 funders raised $24,635 of the $30,000 goal.

Nickerson said he eventually realized he needed close to $50,000 to reopen the bar; he’s offering to return money to any donors who ask, but he said he is still using the money to pay the necessary fees.

“The time it was taking, the costs to get everything into compliance, the need to pay full rent plus and an added fee on top, all while losing the income of this important time of year, added up to too much,” Nickerson said in an email to Indiegogo donors in early March.

Hurley, however, told the Bard Free Press that he evicted Nickerson after Nickerson skipped rent payments for the past two months. Hurley said he was in Ireland when the bar was raided three months ago, and he came swiftly back.

“I put my heart and soul into it when I first opened it,” said Hurley, who emigrated from Ireland in 1984 at age 17. “I decided to open a little Irish pub,” he added. “I basically just wanted to sit in there and read books and play chess.”

Tim Voell, owner of the Suminski Innski, called the Swan’s closing a significant one. “You always had someone to talk to there,” he said to the Bard Free Press. “Someone to make you feel welcome.”

Though the Swan was a welcome hub for some, it has been a sore spot for others; some Tivoli residents say the pub was too noisy and attracted rowdiness. In 2006, the SLA fined the bar $2,000 for excessive noise, and in 2009, the SLA fined the bar $4,000 for employing unlicensed bouncers and off-the-books employees.

Last April, Nickerson and Tivoli Mayor Bryan Cranna met to discuss the pub’s being too noisy. In October, Bard altered its weekend shuttle schedule in Tivoli, responding to complaints of late-night rowdiness. “It just became unsustainable,” Village Trustee Joel Griffith told The Observer. “It’s intolerable and it’s unsustainable, and it could not go on any longer,” he added.

“All I know is it’s out of business, and I couldn’t care less. I don’t have any take on it,” Tivoli resident Dave Cleaveland, who was a vocal critic of the Swan, said.

To Bard sophomore Jeremy Gardner, though, the Swan was a staple for the Bard social life. “It was Bard at its best,” he said. “There were so many people in one little space. I met more people there than in any of my classes.”

Still, the SLA raid was, in part, a matter of safety. “There were phone calls and emails sent to my office from parents and others who were concerned about underage drinking in there,” Cranna said.

Hurley said that he does not have any timeframe for his reopening, but that he intends to recreate the pub the way it was during the three years he ran it.

“I have a lot of hoops to jump through, but I’m going to fight like crazy to open the place,” he said.

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