This article was originally published in the Democrat and Chronicle on September 8, 2019.
by Caurie Putnam
The Galley Restaurant in Spencerport isn’t quite wastin’ away in Margaritaville, but this summer has certainly been lean.
“This has been our worst August in the 14 years we’ve been open,” said owner Ross Gates, attributing the downturn of his Caribbean-themed eatery to the state Department of Transportation’s closure of the Union Street/Route 259 lift bridge over the Erie Canal. “The closing of the bridge is bad enough, but we never anticipated the fencing.”
A tall, chain link fence went up from Amity Street to the bridge when work began this July. The fence abuts (but does not block) the sidewalk in front of the Galley and several other businesses, including two I’ve featured in this column in the past: Splatters, a paint your pottery studio and McColley's, an Irish and other Isles pub.
Inside the fence, on the closed portion of South Union Street, equipment being used to replace the 116-year-old bridge’s undercarriage and mechanical and electrical systems is stored and staged. Having this equipment area helps limit the amount the amount of work-truck traffic on South Union Street, said Jordan Guerrein, NYSDOT Region 4 public information officer.
The DOT has placed several large, blue signs at key intersections in Spencerport and Ogden informing the public that the village businesses are still open. Gates also wants to remind the community the eateries, shops and attractions in the village of Spencerport are still open and could use the patronage.
Work on the bridge is expected to be over by the end of November 2020, Guerrein said.
“I know a lot of people are steering around the village,” said Mike Shearing, of Spencerport, a regular at the Galley. “People see the sign on West Avenue that the bridge is out and turn around. If they do come into the village they see the fence and it’s a visual hindrance.”
Among the ways Shearing and his significant other are supporting local businesses during the bridge closure is by having dinner at the Galley every Friday night.
“This is just such a great family place with a great menu and no airs about it,” said Shearing, who loves everything on the menu from the meatless burgers to the fish fry. Gates, who grew up on the west side of Rochester, opened the Galley in Spencerport in 2005. He also operated a Brockport location on Market Street for several years, before deciding to focus just on one.
“This place is just fun,” Gates said. “We’ve copied Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. I wanted the Caribbean décor and feel. If you look at the menu you’ll see a lot of Margaritaville.”
Gates compliments the fun food — such as jerked chicken Alfredo pasta, crispy coconut shrimp, hush puppies and pressed Cuban sandwiches — with a game room on the second floor and lively entertainment.
Thursday nights feature music bingo, Friday nights have live music and Saturday nights, karaoke. There was a trivia night on Wednesdays, but Gates has temporarily halted that due to low turnout his attributes to the bridge work. Deb Kerwan, of Watkins Glen in Schuyler County, and a group of friends visited the Galley for the first time on a recent weekday for lunch.
They dined at an outside table with the bridge construction in clear view, but didn’t mind.
“The food was great,” Kerwan said, noting her enjoyment of the corn and shrimp bisque in particular. “You couldn’t ask for a nicer setting on the water either. We’re glad we found it.”