Just a stone's throw removed from the busiest section of East Avenue, the space at 7 Lawrence Street is, in a word, uninviting. The building is long, low, and dark, distinguished only by its triangular orange portico. Once a garage, 7 Lawrence Street has hosted a string of restaurants and bars in recent years, including the Pig N Whistle and Doc Holliday's American Whiskey Bar and Grille. Now the building's new owners, partners Mark Siwiec and Duffy Palmer, are working to transform this space into 80W, Rochester's newest upscale bar and lounge.
The new business is situated directly across the street from live music venue Anthology, and will serve craft cocktails, wine, and beer, as well as a menu of small plates and desserts. It is the first commercial venture for Siwiec, a well-known local real estate agent, and Palmer, former state Deputy Secretary of Education. But neither is a stranger to hospitality. During the more than twenty years they've been together, Siwiec and Palmer have done plenty of entertaining. Palmer describes the new business as an extension of their living room -- a place for friends to gather and linger. The name 80W is actually shorthand for the couple's home address, where they frequently host guests. "We've already had two parties this week," Palmer said on a recent Wednesday.
Siwiec and Palmer say they have thought about opening a bar for years, but when they finally set their plans in motion, things progressed swiftly. The couple purchased the building in May, began interior demolition in July, and are planning for a soft opening for some time in mid to late October, Palmer says. They have spent about $300,000 on renovations so far, with help from interior designer Karen Hill, who recently completed the interior of newly-opened Native Eatery and Bar.
For 80W, Hill helped Siwiec and Palmer create an intimate, club-like atmosphere with leather sofas, deep armchairs, dim lighting, and a custom-made cherry wood bar top. At the back of the space, a flight of stairs leads to a VIP lounge which can be reserved for private functions. Valet service will be available Thursday through Saturday.
When asked why they chose the East End for their business, Palmer says, "We think this is the area that will change the most in the coming years."
He credits the closing of the Inner Loop and increased residential development with allowing the East End to expand and flourish. Though he acknowledges there are already quite a few bars in the area, Palmer believes there is room for growth. For one thing, 80W is geared towards a slightly different demographic than many other bars in the East End, which has long been a hotspot for university students and 20-something revelers. Palmer says 80W will be slower-paced, more intimate, and attract a slightly older crowd. He envisions it as a popular choice for city workers on their way home from the office, or for concert patrons grabbing a drink before an RPO concert. 80W will keep slightly different hours than its neighbors, too, closing at midnight on weekends rather than 2 a.m. as other area bars do. On Sundays, Palmer expects to serve brunch and screen football games.
Palmer says that he and Siwiec might continue on in the hospitality industry if 80W does well. "Mark's already talking about another business," he says.