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SARATOGA SPRINGS — Shortly after the re-opening of Cantina’s new location in June, co-owner, Heath Ames teased an event space and possible rooftop bar in the future but said the plans were just tentative. Just six months later these plans are in motion and are going through the city’s Design Review Commission (DRC).

On Nov. 5 Jeff Ames, husband of Heath Ames and co-owner of Cantina, applied to the DRC to make changes that would allow for a rooftop bar at the existing Cantina restaurant on Broadway. Changes will include extending an existing staircase up through roof level, new rooftop equipment screening, new guard rails to match the existing second floor railing, a privacy wall on the north side of the building and seasonal sun sails.

Plans also include a second floor event space complete with men's and women's bathrooms, a separate catering kitchen, a bar, a space for live performances, buffet tables, a food station and multiple dining tables. The second floor has a balcony over- looking Broadway and windows that double as doors. Bonacio Construction was the building entity for the new location and will be for the additions as well.

Cantina is now located at 408 Broadway, the former home to Lillian’s restaurant. At the time of the re-opening, both Jeff and Heath called the new location Cantina 2.0 and said they had always had their eye on this location.

On Dec. 5 the Cantina rooftop project went before the city’s DRC for a historic review of the rooftop and its associated structures. According to Bradley Birge, Administrator of Planning and Economic Development, the Cantina rooftop project only requires approval from the DRC. He says their application was discussed at the meeting and the Commission was very supportive of the proposed use of the rooftop space.

“They did ask for more information and consideration of materials and design for the proposed rooftop structures including the north wall and south stair tower. They did not take any action on the application last night; rather, they continued the application to the meetings in January,” Birge said.

Published in News
Friday, 08 June 2018 10:46

Cantina Opens at New Broadway Location

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Cantina’s new spot on 408 Broadway is open for business as of June 4.

The Mexican restaurant has moved to a new location that was previously home to Lillian’s Restaurant, which closed in 2016. According to Heath Ames, co-owner of Cantina, it was bought by a non-restaurateur in 2016 and was completely gutted but nothing further continued.

“It was great, it went super smoothly, we couldn’t be happier,” Heath Ames said about Cantina’s first night open at the new location.

“It was great to see so many familiar faces, we feel the excitement so we are really grateful,” she added.

Heath Ames co-owns Cantina with her husband Jeff Ames. The two opened up Cantina’s first location at 430 Broadway in 2007.

“Truth be told, we always looked at this spot,” Ames said.

“We loved our location always, we thought it was one of the best parts of Broadway but this was awfully close to us and we always thought that this is the other best spot on Broadway; So the opportunity came to us over last summer and we jumped at it and we've been working on it ever since,” she added. 

According to Ames both she and her husband chose not advertise the opening of the new location.

“We are working hard to keep it the same Cantina, we keep calling Cantina 2.0, just a bigger, better, and faster version of it," Ames said.

You may notice in passing that there is a second floor. This space will be used as an event and catering space. Both Heath and Jeff Ames hope to open this portion in roughly six months. The windows on this floor, facing Broadway, are actually doors that will open.

“You will feel like your outdoors, it’s almost kind of a balcony type of feel," Ames said.

Bonacio Construction was tapped to remodel the property last fall according to Ames.

“It’s a small town so, of course we know the Bonacio’s and they were an easy choice because they’re so professional and they are known for being timely… We had all kinds of reasons to want to work with them,” she said.

“They know how to put a building on Broadway, that’s for sure,” she added.

Ames teased that the pair hope to add a rooftop patio to Cantina but professed that these are very tentative dates.

Cantina’s new location also means some new menu items including the Aguachile Rojo, which is made with shrimp, a grilled octopus dish and chocolate tacos made with a Kilwin’s waffle-cone. A New cocktail recommended by Ames is called La Borracha, which is made with gin and hibiscus-infused pisco.

Published in News

SARATOGA SPRINGS – A pair of multi-million-dollar deals in the heart of the city’s downtown district will affect three long-standing fixtures in a real estate overture that may best be titled: Broadway Variations.

The Saratoga Downtowner motel, constructed on Broadway and Division Street in 1963, was sold to the Lark Hotel group for $4.55 million, according to records at the Saratoga County Clerk’s office. Meanwhile, Cantina restaurant owner Jeff Ames, located across the street and a half-block away from the motel, has purchased for $2.2 million the former Lillian’s Restaurant on Broadway, where he anticipates opening a new two-story Cantina restaurant next May. 

“I thought long and hard about making this move, but it was an opportunity to own my own building,” said Ames, adding that the new location will be a lot more “bistro-ey.” Ames is selling the lease at the current Cantina restaurant, where he opened for business in 2007, for $699,000.

After nearly 18 years of operating their 42-room motel on Broadway, Mary Cae Asay and her husband, Bill, have sold the Saratoga Downtowner to Lark Hotels. The company will be making its first entry into New York and currently operates intimately sized boutique hotels in Maine and Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Mendocino, California - a coastal community north of San Francisco.

“I am really pleased about this new hotel group coming in because they have a focus on a sense of place. They want it to reflect Saratoga. They’re going to renovate it and I think they’re going to bring a refreshed vitality to the corner here,” said Mary Cae Asay. She said she will miss seeing the thousands of picture-takers capturing images of her garden outside the motel as well as many longtime guests, some of whom have stayed in the same room year-after-year, and have made the experience feel more akin to having visiting relatives come for a stay.     

“Maintaining the integrity of Saratoga was really important to me. We had multiple offers, but I was very grateful that this particular one worked out because they’re interested in keeping such a strong sense of Saratoga as part of their new business,” said Asay, who recently opened an office on Maple Avenue where she uses a holistic device – called a BEMER - to aid people in their healing.  Her husband, Bill, plans on continuing to coach the Saratoga Springs High School boys swim team, as he’s done since the Asays first moved to the area.

“The other thing I’m going to do is now go visit my guests, at their inns and restaurants and shops. They’ve come to my place, now I’m going to go to theirs,” Asay said.  “A lot of these people have come to the Downtowner for 15, 20, 30, 40 years. That’s how loyal and traditional our guests are. They love coming back to the Downtowner.  We are the fourth owners since 1963 and I feel honored to be a part of that history.”   

Lark Hotels CEO Rob Blood said in an email response that the company is excited to become part of the Saratoga community and to write the next chapter for the Downtowner. “While we are not yet ready to fully reveal our plans for the motel, I can say that our repositioning will focus on the cultural and creative community that is such an important part of the Saratoga Springs area,” Blood said. “We are currently targeting a summer 2018 opening for the property and look forward to unveiling more detailed plans soon."



Published in News

A blur of bright neon burst through Congress Park Sunday and it brought with it tens of thousands of dollars. What was it? A pack of children in green shirts running for a good cause.

Children up to age 12 sprinted and waddled and rolled through two different trails in the tenth annual Cantina Fun Run Sunday morning. The Cantina restaurant, in conjunction with the Saratoga hospital foundation and various sponsors, organized the event.  

“The tenth anniversary had a lot of personal meaning for us,” Cantina owner Heath Ames said. “Along with the money an awareness raised over the years, engaging our kids to help others and showing how a community comes together is a wonderful lesson to share.”

This year, the event raised $76,500, 30 percent more than the organizers’ goal of $59,500. The race trampled the previous donation record of $60,000, set in 2014. All the funds have supported Saratoga Hospital’s pediatric care. The event has raised over $400,000 since the first race in 2008.

The Saratoga Hospital Foundation has fostered the event since its inception. Officials estimated that the hospital treats over 4000 children each year. The donations have brought in new equipment and provided employees special training.

The benefit isn’t solely for the children in need of treatment. Jane Jeffery of Clifton Park said her two children, who ran the event for the first time, felt inspired watching parents and other kids move together for a good cause.

“After these types of activities, I see my kids walking around with a little bit more confidence, feeling taller, older,” Jeffery said. “I think it’s great to have that kind of internal feeling of what it feels like to move your body, what it feels like to accomplishing things together.”

Over 730 people from all over Saratoga County participated in the race. For some, the sense of community the event brought was a highlight.

“We got a big kick watching the little ones run by,” said Sal Calvelli, a Saratoga County resident of six years. “We don’t know them but we’re cheering them on. It brings you together.”

Calvelli’s children participated in the event for the first time this year.

“It’s not just fun; it makes you feel good that you’re contributing to the hospital,” he said. “It’s not just getting together with friends and family. It’s getting together for a good cause.”

Among the numerous community members were hundreds of volunteers. Heather and Brian Straughter have been Fun Run volunteers since its second year, when it was held in the old Cantina parking lot. They have watched the event, the community and their own son, Ethan, grow together.

“All these events are so great because you see people who have young kids, who have older kids. Some of the kids who run this are now volunteers. It makes you feel happy that you live in area where people care.”

Ethan, 12, has been running in the event since he was five, and 2017 was his last year eligible for the run. “He aged out,” Brian said. “Now he can volunteer.”

Published in Sports