Tony D’Alessandro wants students searching for a bar to look no further than down the street from Riverview.
With Tin Roof, D’Alessandro is looking to revamp what he sees as a lacking local nightlife scene for UR.
“We want to facilitate what we believe was a missing part of a UR college experience,” he said.
D’Alessandro and business partner Jack McMahon, a Simon School grad, opened Tin Roof on Jan. 12. It’s located just north of Riverview on South Plymouth Ave.
But it took seven years of planning, construction, and zoning hearings — amid palpable community opposition — to make the bar a reality.
The plan started in 2011, when Riverview was three years old, with the goal of opening a bar. But due to the difficulty of licensing a bar in the area, that idea “got tabled for a bit,” D’Alessandro said.
“So, we said, what’s something that’s more accessible?”
Instead of a bar, D’Alessandro, a Pittsford native, opened the sandwich shop Deli Sandro’s in 2012. The deli used to stand next to where Tin Roof is now, but D’Alessandro moved it across the street last year.
“We just outgrew our space over there,” D’Alessandro said. But liquor licenses are attached to properties, not businesses, so Deli Sandro’s lost its license.
That’s where Tin Roof comes in.
Tin Roof hosts college-themed events like Mario Kart Mondays and Thirst for Knowledge Trivia Wednesdays. It also has apple-bobbing and chicken-wing-eating contests, often with a theme like “Battle of the Sexes” to split groups and forge new connections.
“Everyone comes in their little clique… and the goal of it is to get people out of their little clique,” D’Alessandro said.
He added that he feels his bar can “promote more of a sense of togetherness” off campus.
D’Alessandro says Tin Roof is currently the closest bar to the University. From a central spot on campus, like Crosby hall, the bar is a 14-minute walk, according to Google Maps. From the same spot, a trek to College Town takes 21 minutes.
And D’Alessandro has a thing or two to say about College Town.
“I think that they misgauged it,” he said. “The truth of the matter is that that’s too far from you guys to be College Town. Certainly, you have some students that are living there on Mt. Hope, but most of those are going to be medical students. It should be hospital town.”
“This is college town,” D’Alessandro said of the area around Tin Roof. “This is where you, as a student, can cross that bridge, get off campus, and hang out with a bunch of your friends.”
“And there’s places to go and there are things to do,” D’Alessandro continued. “You’re not under the eye, so to say.”
The two areas reflect the different levels of control the University has over them. College Town and Riverview were both built by UR with private contractors. Yet, the University’s influence wanes across the river.
“We haven’t been in the driver’s seat of all that development in the way we have been with College Town,” Ronald Paprocki, UR’s senior vice president for administration and finance, told the Democrat & Chronicle in 2013.
The same article describes how D’Alessandro’s brother Joe, another Simon School grad, has driven much of that development. Joe owns the property where Tin Roof and Deli Sandro’s are. He also runs D’Alessandro House Buyers.
From 2009–2013, the business purchased more than 40 houses, mostly in the South Plymouth area. D’Alessandro doesn’t know where his brother’s numbers are now, but he estimates they are “probably about double” what they were in 2013. The focus in on student rentals.
Joe’s business embodies a continued trend of growing property values in the South Plymouth area and the 19th Ward, as well as the shift away from ownership to rentals. The D’Alessandros are among those heavily in favor of this trend. Back in 2013, all but one of the houses Joe bought were already rentals or vacant. And data for the Brooks Landing area is noisy, but property and violent crimes in Rochester were trending down toward the national averages through 2016.
“If we are making an area more appealing, it’s a good thing — a good thing for everybody,” Joe said at the time.
Tony D’Alessandro agrees with his brother. “The difference is huge, even since 2012,” he said. “And it’s just been a great thing for the area.”
D’Alessandro described the business that was in Tin Roof’s building before it as “this corner store that got shut down by the ATF. They were selling guns, loosie cigarettes, alcohol to minors.” The spot was abandoned by the time Joe purchased the property.
But not everyone in the area has been thrilled with all the changes. The 2013 article describes complaints from local residents upset about late night parties and code violations. Residents were worried by the lack of stability that temporary residents bring.
This made obtaining zoning for Tin Roof a strenuous process.
D’Alessandro went through “some of the crazy shit people came up with to keep us from doing this.”
During the zoning process to obtain licensing, residents were able to send petition letters. D’Alessandro says he was open to those concerns. “I want to create a business that is inclusive of the entire community,” he said of his goal at the time.
Some residents were supportive. Some were not.
“I was accused of being the next George Zimmerman,” D’Alessandro said.
Other letters recounted events D’Alessandro says never happened. “So, they accused us of having these big ‘gay’ parties,” he said. “It’s a page out of the playbook.”
The most common theme, however, was the negative effect a pub would have on parking. D’Alessandro said this issue had not manifested itself since the opening.
Aside from obtaining licensing, Tin Roof has also had trouble securing grants. D’Alessandro says that, in the area, those traditionally go to barber shops and beauty stores. He doesn’t believe those types of businesses attract people to an area.
But new spots following D’Alessandro vision for the area are set to open. Within the next month, the owners of Staybridge Suites are opening a restaurant at the bottom of Brooks Crossing, and a CBD shop named Baked in the Fingerlakes will open next to Tin Roof.
D’Alessandro believes his business has moved beyond the rough stages, including tension from the neighborhood. “Those things, they’re done and over,” he said. “It’s important to facilitate a message of togetherness.”
“Now, things are getting nicer,” he said. “And, for whatever reason, there’s people that don’t want that.”
D’Alessandro added, “But I think anytime something’s getting nicer, that’s a good thing.”