Once you enter Hamilton Manor, there’s really no reason to leave.
With a banquet room, an upscale steakhouse, and a not-so-upscale nightclub; a wedding reception and the after-party could all take place under one roof.
And that’s just what Joe Salzano had in mind when he designed the 30,000 square-foot complex, giving the former Polish-American Club building a $9 million renovation.
“You might have 300 people at the facility, wondering ‘where are you going after the wedding?’ You’re going down the elevator five feet away to the nightclub,” he said.
Salzano, who also owns Peasants on Hamilton Ave., has spent most of his career as a developer. When he bought Peasants several years ago, it was with the intention of “flipping” it for a profit. But he liked running the place so much, he’s changed his job description to restaurateur.
His latest endeavor, Hamilton Manor, is located at 30 Route 156, the location of the old Polish-American Club. The oldest parts of the building are from around 1920, Salzano said, and the grand ballroom was added in 1967.
Remaking the building to suit Salzano’s business plan didn’t require adding anything. Instead, the building was completely renovated. The dirt-floor basement was converted into a trendy Manhattan-esque bar. The ballroom was re-done with the original mahogany floors intact and nothing else. About $400,000 worth of high-tech media gadgetry was installed, including a dozen flat screen TVs in various parts of the building, a wi-fi hotspot, and high definition digital projectors and screens in the main ballroom. The resulting hybrid building is divided into three parts, that Salzano said serve to drum up business for one another.
First (and most lucrative) is the ballroom. It seats about 600 people on the main floor with room for about 175 more on an overlooking gallery. There is a stage for performers and a sound system that can be connected to the rest of the facility.
Salzano said this banquet hall fills a gap that previously existed in the Hamilton market. The reward for filling that gap has been plenty of business – Salzano said 26 events are booked there for October even though the hall has only been open since July.
On the ground floor near the ballroom is the Porter House restaurant. Salzano said this restaurant is a completely separate endeavor from Peasants, and is meant to be a more high-end experience. The signature dish is a 38-ounce two-person “Tomahawk” steak that Salzano compares to a Brontosaurus Steak from The Flintstones. (The steak technically feeds two, but Salzano and others have tackled it single-handedly.) Made with dry-aged Kobe beef, the Tomahawk costs $38 per person.
Downstairs is the Cellar nightclub. With the aesthetics of a New York City basement bar, the Cellar features entertainment most nights, including duelling pianos on Thursday night, a comedy-musical act imported from Manhattan. It’s the interaction of all three parts of the building that brings Salzano’s plan to fruition.
“It’s good to see when we have a wedding with 300 people and 100 of them are entering my nighclub downstairs afterward,” he said.
The synergy works the other way too. He can show off the banquet hall to restaurant patrons. The Sapphire Room, a meeting room in the basement, has been popular with pharmaceutical companies that want to hold a meeting that empties out into the bar afterward. Although it may be a shaky time for new business ventures, Salzano, who is also the president of the Hamilton Restaurant Association, said he’s not worried.
“I’ve always said Hamilton is a recession-proof town,” he said. “And my heart goes out to all the restaurant owners who are having a hard time in this economy … but we’re going to try this upcoming fall to help one another and rebuild to the point where we were last year when we were really flourishing. I believe that’s going to happen very soon.”