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Cocktail bar Nagle’s Observance sets up amid Midtown growth


Tucked behind Fuego Coffee Roasters on the corner of Euclid and Atlas streets, the recently opened craft cocktail bar Nagle's Observance wants to contribute to the growing Midtown scene. Through metal double doors (just to the right of a colorful wall mural of the cover of Joywave's 2017 album, "Content") there is a low-lit, minimalist space, all wood and concrete and gleaming metal. At the far end, an open door leads to Fuego. Only a simple partition wall separates the two neighbors, and through the slats you can see baristas at work at the espresso machine and hear the buzz of people.

Nagle's Observance is a newcomer to Midtown, but owner Eric Nagle isn't a stranger to the area. He purchased the space at 45 Euclid Street in 2010, two years after moving back to Rochester from New York City. In the years since, developers have poured resources into Midtown, drawing foot traffic and residents into the area, and changing the game for local businesses. The "observance" in the bar's name represents the owner's vision to be "an establishment that can literally look out upon the growth of the neighborhood while serving the community," Nagle says. The latter is conveyed in the bar's logo, which depicts a top-hatted man gazing through a telescope.

At the time he purchased the building, Nagle and his then-business partner, Jesse Wilson, were working in construction and looking to invest in a project together. According to Nagle, he and Wilson drew on their shared appreciation for "friends, music, meeting new people, building things, and dreaming up creative business concepts," and decided to start a club. When the Euclid building came up for sale, Nagle says, he fell in love with its features and history.

Nagle says he haggled over the price of the property with the building's out-of-town owner for nearly a year. The negotiations might have broken down if Nagle hadn't seen a news story about the proposed renovation of Midtown Tower. Banking on greater development in the area, Nagle accepted the owner's counteroffer the next day. He and Wilson initially considered biding their time and waiting until the redevelopment of Midtown Tower was complete before launching their business, but the appeal of being one of the first new businesses on the scene was too strong. As Nagle says, "Someone has to be the first."

In October 2010, Nagle and Wilson opened Decibel Lounge, which ran until 2013. Nagle maintained the space as a venue for private events, called 45 Euclid. After Decibel closed, Nagle says he received several proposals on what to do with the space, but nothing fit with the values he wanted in his business. Nagle was introduced last February to Ralph DiTucci, a food and beverage industry veteran who had worked for the last 16 years at 213 Hospitality in Los Angeles. Nagle says DiTucci's experience and values were a match with his own business vision, and DiTucci is now Nagle's Observance's program director.

The two launched Nagle's Observance four months later. The bar's June soft opening capitalized on increased foot traffic during the Rochester International Jazz Festival, and business stayed strong through its August 5 grand opening, Nagle says. Now, the bar is becoming a watering hole for Midtown-area workers, and Nagle and DiTucci say they're already seeing regulars.

"Our goal is to be so much more than a place to have a drink," Nagle says. "The hope is to create a norm where business people can stop in after a day at the office, still in a suit, and find commonality and conversation with the local artist sitting next to them who hasn't changed out of their paint-covered T-shirt." Nagle and DiTucci aim to be open seven days a week, year-round, a schedule they say reinforces their commitment to being a Midtown mainstay.

As for the cocktails, Nagle and DiTucci want to keep it "no frills and solid." Granted, if you want something a little left of center — such as the "Tricks are For Kids," which consists of three frozen juice blocks doused in gin — Nagle's Observance has those options on the menu. However, DiTucci says his cocktail background largely focuses on simple things done to perfection. Even the ice cubes get special treatment. DiTucci owns Cristallino Premium Ice, which makes giant-size, slow-melting, crystal-clear ice cubes.

For curious drinkers who want to sample before committing to a full beverage, Nagle's offers omakase service, that is chef's (or in this case bartender's) choice. If you order omakase style, you'll get five or six micro-cocktails to share among the table. DiTucci says this way of ordering is a great way for customers to figure out what they do and don't like.