Newman’s Bar and Grill to boast variety, entertainment

Apr 20, 2015

By Brad McEwen, Albany Herald

ALBANY — Albany diners and music lovers will soon have a new place to enjoy two of their favorite things when restaurateur Austin Newman opens his newest venture, Newman’s Bar and Grill, early next month.

Geared as a family-friendly restaurant, Newman’s Bar and Grill will feature a wide-ranging menu that will include hamburgers, sandwiches, chicken wings, steaks and seafood, as well as a smattering of southwestern items like tacos.

“The theme will kind of be ‘casual American’ you could say,” said Newman. “There will be something for everyone.”

One particular feature that Newman is excited about is a new state-of-the-art beer kiosk, which will allow patrons to serve themselves. The kiosk will have six different taps and will be operated by a pre-loaded card that customers can purchase from the bar or their server. The beer is bought by the ounce so customers can pour themselves whatever portion size they like.

Despite that feature, which is unique to Albany, Newman says the new restaurant is not a bar or a juke joint, but a restaurant first and foremost.

“I don’t want to mislead people into thinking this is a bar,” Newman said. “We are a restaurant that provides entertainment.”

In fact, it’s the entertainment aspect that Newman hopes will give the restaurant its identity and set it apart form his other ventures, including Austin’s Firegrill and the recently closed Baja’s.

Newmans’ Bar and Grill will be located on Meredyth Drive in northwest Albany in the space formerly occupied by Baja’s, which closed its doors last month.

Newman said Baja’s was having trouble drawing a steady crowd, and he felt it was time to either close the restaurant for good or try something completely different.

“It just wasn’t working as a southwestern themed restaurant,” the restaurateur said. “The Tex-Mex didn’t work. I just think people were kind of just blocking the idea, deciding that they didn’t eat that kind of food. There’s probably a multitude of reasons it didn’t work. We just felt we needed a new identity.”

Newman found that identity through discussion with Justin Andrews and Evan Barber, co-owners of Albany’s ThreeForty Creative Group, who had worked with Newman in the past, handling events at Austin’s Firegrill.

“We worked together on past projects like Hammer Jam at Austin’s,” said Andrews. “It’s always been a great fit and a great working relationship so it made sense.”

By bringing ThreeForty in to handle marketing and promotions for the restaurant, the identity of Newman’s Bar and Grill will also be that of an entertainment venue, where ThreeForty can bring in a varierty of musical acts on a regular basis to compliment the atmosphere.

Newman said the restaurant will feature live music every Friday and Saturday night, and he hopes that by establishing the place as a music venue, it will not only drive business but also provide something different to do in Albany.

“We want it to be a destination location,” he said. “Albany begs for something to do. I hear so many people say there’s nothing to do. We’re given them something to do. Hopefully, with my name and my work ethic behind it and these guys on board, we’ll be able to give Albany something good to do.”

In order to make that dream a reality, Newman is renovating the space and ThreeForty will be able to produce high-quality shows that will feature local, regional and national acts, something they haven’t been able to do as much locally since leaving their former venue location on Dawson Road nearly two years ago.

“There was a time when we had a venue here and we could showcase different entertainment that’s not typical to the area as well as some local favorites, and we no longer have that anymore,” said Barber. “We’re looking to bring that here, with music marketing tactics and what-not. We plan on top-of-the-line production. It’s just going to be a state-of-the-art facility, if you will.”

In fact, the group already has acts lined up throughout the month of May, starting with the restaurant’s grand opening weekend, which will feature local favorites Meow Kapow on May 1 and Good Doctor, from Alabama, on May 2.

ThreeForty is also going to continue hosting its Southeastern/Singer Songwriter Series the last Thrusday of every month, which the group began doing at Baja’s since late February. The series, which features multiple artists who perform their original songs in the round while sharing stories and anecdotes about the music, will provide an addition night of unique entertainment, say Barber and Andrews.

“With that we can get a lot of diversity on one stage,” said Andrews. “You can come with your family and get a storytellers-type dinner. It’s really different and a lot of fun.”

In addition to those regular events, the restaurant will also feature a private room patrons can rent for gatherings, karaoke and parties. The group also hopes to expand the music venue aspect in the future and host larger events, which they plan to host outside the restaurant.

“Down the line, we’d love to be able to put some bigger acts in here like a Drivin n Cryin or a Swinging Medallions,” said Newman. “Once we get some momentum.”

In the meantime, though, Newman has his hands full finishing up renovations and getting staff in place for the May 1 opening. Restaurant management is currently taking applications, which can be picked up at the restaurant. Newman anticipates hiring roughly 40 people, similar to the staff he employs at Austin’s Firegrill.

“We’re always taking applications,” he said. “We definitely need more staff.”

To learn more about Newman’s Bar and Grill, or to check out future events at the venue, vist the restaurant’s Facebook page or www.newmansbarandgrill.com.

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