On my way out the door this morning I did a Twitter check and saw some messages regarding Tess’ Lark Tavern, one of my very favorite places in Albany, NY. Sadly, there was a huge fire there this morning and they’ll be shut down for a while.
This is a big blow to the city and Center Square neighborhood. Yes, it’s a bar/music place, but anyone who’s been to Lark Tavern can tell you that there’s something about it that just makes it so special. You’re not a stranger when you walk in, and you have a strangely comforting sense that you’ve been there a thousand times, even if it’s your first visit. I think a lot of that has to do with Tess, the owner. She’s a super terrific lady and loved by so, so many. She’s inarguably one of the people that makes Albany the special place it is. She gives so much and makes it a great community. People who’ve talked to Tess today are saying that the concerns she's expressing are getting her employees into new jobs and hosting PAWS benefits for the Albany Damien Center.
There’s already been a ton of outpouring of tears, love, and calls for help. Tess’ was going to be supplying most of the food and drinks for a big fundraising event tonight called Champagne on the Park, and already restaurants in the area are filling in. Two funds have been set up—one by friend and fellow Lark Street restaurant owner (Matt Baumgartner of Bombers, the Biergarten, and Friday Puppy), and another by Marketplace Gallery, who had a fire last year and Tess threw a fundraiser for them.
How great is that? One thing that drives me nuts but I still love about Albany (and New Yorkers in general) is that if you ask them to help ahead of time, they’ll waffle or find some excuse not to. If you have an emergency, you instantly have 8,000 people there to lend a hand—friends and strangers.
I’ll leave you with my favorite story involving Lark Tavern. When I was in grad school, my friends and I started a gang (because if you can’t start a gang in grad school, when can you?). We called ourselves the Cobras. Our gang wasn’t overly selective; basically if you were in the Communication Department (or a friend of someone in it) and we asked you to join, you were in. All told, I think we ended up with at least thirteen members.
One night my friends Karla, Jules, Ali, and I went out to Lark Tavern for a drink and some music. Karla, a newly-minted Cobra herself, decided that Ali should join the gang, but that he needed to have a tougher initiation. She taught him the snake-fanged gang signal (not something we had before but became standard practice afterwards) and told him that if he wanted to join, he had to yell out “Cobras rule!” in a quiet part of the set. Ali, being the suavest urban Brooklyn-Pakistani on the planet, looks at Karla and says in a monotone, “Yeah. All right.” Clearly like “Yeah, you girls are idiots if you think I’m going to sink low enough to do that. I’m already too cool to be out with you.” A couple songs pass, and the musician stops to fiddle with his guitar. Out of the blue Ali shouts out, “Cobras rule!”
The guitarist looks up, laughs, and says, “Yeah, they do!”