OSWEGO — While many downtown businesses have been able to return to some degree as COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted over the past year, local nightlife has lagged.
Thanks to COVID-19 Recovery Grant Program, Oswego’s Alley Cat received $5,000 which will help the nightclub with a variety of things, including major renovations.
For the past 16 months, a once-thriving party hotspot has lain dormant despite attempts to reopen. The bar, according to its manager and head DJ Mike Howell, wanted to open with “seating, but that’s not what Alley Cat is”. Howell added that the finances associated with seats and food were not feasible for the club.
The financial burden of the prolonged shutdown is easily recognizable. In the United States and even in New York State, many bars have closed their doors for good; however, for Alleycat staff, the emotional toll was also difficult.
“We lost 12 months of nights, and it hurt financially,” Howell said. “It hurt the staff mentally. It just didn’t help, sitting there not being able to… provide for our family.
While the City of Oswego has been praised by business owners like Evan Coy of the Oswego Comic Shop for its ability to raise funds and sales for its local businesses, Alley Cat could not benefit, according to Howell who said “nothing” could benefit the dance club given the way the state taxed its closure through COVID-19 restrictions.
Now, with the state at a 70% adult vaccination rate and restrictions lifted, Alley Cat has its chance to reopen. The hard months of waiting are over, and now is the time to use the grant to revamp the dance club with new bathrooms, flooring and a sports TV package, as he said in his Instagram and Facebook posts from June 4.
“The grant will [to those improvements]every little bit counts,” Howell said. “We are grateful for that.”
The bar doesn’t have much time to apply the subsidy, however, as it plans to reopen on the July 4 weekend.
“We are aiming for the block party which is planned in the city center [July 4 weekend]”Howell said. “We’re aiming for that. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re trying to reimage Alley Cat.
Alley Cat’s reimagining includes outdoor seating for customers to take advantage of the warm weather during the summer months and up “whenever it’s not beneficial” to sit outside outside, which Howell expects to be in October or November. The outdoor space will include tables and chairs, covering the facade of the building.
According to Howell, the patio will be about 12 feet long and eight to 10 feet wide. This, along with new dancing lights and soda guns, will combine to create a better Alley Cat, which Howell thinks the town needs.
“With Old City closed and 2Cans gone, we really need to step up our game for our community,” Howell said.
The latest convenience Alley Cat is tinkering with is an appetizer kitchen for fried foods, but first comes the long-awaited opening that has been in the works for 15 months.
“The option is being considered to put in an appetizer kitchen,” Howell said. “We are going to redo them and release new drinks, new combinations with different types of liqueurs… We are studying [the kitchen]we talked about it. But right now our goal is to focus, open up and go from there.