Twenty-three years is a long run, especially in the music or food business. The Towne Crier Café has successfully brought these two passions together for the last 40 years. Founder Phil Ciganer started the business in 1972 in Beekman; since 1989, the café — which has hosted top-shelf musicians like Pete Seeger, Pat Metheny, Don McLean, and Richie Havens — has operated out of a building on Route 22 in Pawling. Early this year, Ciganer announced that he would be closing his doors at the end of February. “Our lease expired, and the landlord is actively trying to sell the building,” says Ciganer. “Despite a string of recent sellout shows, we realized we needed to move forward.”
But don’t cry for Ciganer just yet. There has been such an outpouring of fan support that the landlord has agreed to a month-to-month lease until a new site is located.
In the meantime, Ciganer will celebrate his organization’s 40th anniversary with a host of special programs. “This has been my life’s passion,” he says. “We plan to keep presenting music in an intimate setting where there’s a connection between the artist and audience, an open mic to support new talent, and great food.” So yes, the show will go on.
Here, Ciganer looks back at some of his venue’s highlights:
1972 Peter Seeger helped open up the first venue, almost by coincidence since he lived in the area.
1977 We adjusted from a coffee house selling cappuccino and banana bread to selling beer and wine after we got our liquor license.
1987 The New York Times came to review our music as well as our food. In 1988, we debuted our open mic system.
1992 The early ’90s were big years with Alison Krauss, Bill Monroe, Arlo Guthrie, Richie Havens.
1997 Actor Kevin Bacon called me about the band he was starting with his brother Michael. I brought them in one night to perform, and wow! The band has considered our place their home.
2002 We had the Wainwright family; their son Rufus is a big deal at Carnegie Hall.
2007-2012 We’ve continued to have families join us: members of the Wainwright-McGarrigle family, John Pizzarelli with his father Bucky Pizzarelli, the Clancy Tradition with brothers Patrick and Eugene with their children.