New Bar to Open in Downtown Hamilton

A new bar plans to open in the space formerly occupied by Risky Business, located at 18 Lebanon Street. The owners, brothers Jack and Will — who have opted not to include their last name for privacy concerns — had hoped to open by the start of the school year but are behind schedule. They are now aiming to open in the next few weeks. 

Jack and Will grew up outside of Albany, NY and have been living in Manhattan since graduating from college. Their connection to Colgate and Hamilton originated with a family tradition. 

“We’ve been visiting Hamilton for a long time, mostly for an annual family golf tournament at Seven Oaks that our dad and uncles started in 1986 and still takes place every year,” Jack said.

Jack and Will explained that they had always been interested in starting their own business – a bar in particular. During the pandemic, they found out that the owner of Risky Business had put the business up for sale. The space had housed a legacy of bars. 

“Most recently it was Risky Business (aka “the Bacon”) since 1991,” Jack said. “Before that, it was Jim & Betty’s, Jack & Rosemary’s, the Back Bacon (the origin of the nickname that would stick through the Risky Business days) and others before that from what we’ve been told.”

The brothers and their family frequented Risky Business during visits to Hamilton. 

That was always one of our favorite places to visit when we were in town and our older family members had been visiting long before us,” Jack said. 

The vacancy prompted them to start getting serious about opening their own business and carrying on the legacy of the space. 

Initially it was more of a ‘can you imagine’ scenario that we joked about,” Jack said. “We soon forgot about the listing after hearing that it was under contract and likely going to be turned into apartments. A year or so later we learned that the original deal had fallen through.” 

They sent the former owner of Risky Business, nicknamed “Magic Mari,” a letter explaining their interest in keeping the space alive. 

“We told Mari that we’ve had so many great times at her bar and would love to buy it and keep the long tradition of bars in that building alive,” Jack said. 

Two months later, they closed on the property. Jack and Will plan to give the new bar a different style. 

We’re opening a new bar that will serve primarily drinks and some light snacks,” Jack said. “We’re revamping it a bit but our goal is to preserve the old character from the bars that preceded us in this building.”

Additionally, they hope to bring customers in at different times than in the past.

“We plan to be open earlier in the day than it was previously and want to try to draw people downtown at times that may not be the norm of late,” Jack said. “Eventually we would like to host some live music in the bar and we have a few new drink specials up our sleeve. The Mari Special will also live on.”

They have not decided on an official name, but hope to carry on the “Bacon” legacy.

As new businesses open up downtown, students share their thoughts on the changing environment. Sophomore Nina Hallberg is enthusiastic about changes to downtown. 

“I really think there needs to be more going on downtown,” Hallberg said. “I love the businesses we already have, but it does get a little difficult when we have so few and many places close so early and what not. I would be excited to see some new stuff.” 

Sophomore Hannah O’Donnell shared this sentiment. 

“I think it would be great to see new stuff downtown,” O’Donnel said. “And for older students a new bar would be a great addition. There really aren’t that many options as of now.” 

Jack and Will are eager to open their business and maintain the space’s significance downtown.

We’re hoping to build upon the role that Risky Business has played in Hamilton and make it an inviting place for both students and locals,” Jack said.