By Steven Cook
SCHENECTADY & NISKAYUNA — The restaurant shut in April after the iconic Nicholaus Building downtown became unstable is set to finally reopen Wednesday at its new location in Niskayuna.
Thai Thai Bistro’s reopening in Niskayuna’s ShopRite Square comes after months of work that included ordering all new equipment, owner Piyamas DeMasi said Tuesday.
Now she’s hoping the popular restaurant’s regulars will follow and new customers will come in.
“I [had] a very difficult time. Very stressful, too,” DeMasi said of the eight months the bistro has spent closed.
The new location is between the Smashburger and Dollar Tree on the Balltown Road side of the square.
DeMasi said she’s optimistic. Multiple passers by could be seen stopping Tuesday to ask when the restaurant would open.
“I think the restaurant has very good food and very good service,” DeMasi said. “I think we have here a good location.”
The “soft opening” comes as legal disputes over the damaged Nicholaus Building at corner of Erie Boulevard and State Street continue and the time frame for getting the building fixed remains up in the air.
The city also signaled an unspecified move soon to enforce building codes as officials have had no recent contact with the building’s owner regarding plans to get it fixed.
The building has been closed since the more-than-century-old structure’s west wall, facing a large construction project, shifted April 1, causing cracking, separation of walls, ceilings and floors.
Emergency efforts shored up and stabilized the building, but it has remained uninhabitable. The neighboring building project, the State Street Electric City Apartments, also remains stalled.
The latest legal action came late last month as the attorney for Thai Thai Bistro filed suit against the Nicholaus Building’s owners, construction companies from the neighboring project and the city.
The restaurant filed claims for damages and breach of contract against building owners Viroj and Malinee Chompupong. The restaurant is also seeking release from its lease. Contact information for the Chompupongs could not be found and an attorney possibly representing them couldn’t be reached.
The restaurant is also suing Highbridge/Prime Development, Plank LLC and D.A. Collins Construction Co., and the city of Schenectady, alleging negligence and other claims.
Plank, the construction arm of Highbridge, and its subcontractor on the Electric City Apartments project D.A. Collins have suits pending against each other over the damage caused by construction work.
Plank’s attorney in that case said he couldn’t comment Tuesday as his firm has yet to be retained in the restaurant suit. The attorney for D.A. Collins could not be reached.
Schenectady Corporation Counsel Carl Falotico said Tuesday he has begun to review the restaurant suit.
“I don’t believe the city’s role in the process that took place warrants any liability on our part,” Falotico said. “We’ll be defending our actions in court.”
The restaurant filed its notice of claim against the city, the first step toward the now-filed lawsuit, in April. The Chompupongs, the building owners, have also filed a notice, but no suit from them has yet been filed.
Falotico said the Nicholaus Building has been sitting in its current condition for some time and the building’s owners have not been cooperative in getting a plan in place to get it fixed.
Falotico said that the city could soon move to enforce the building codes, without specifying exactly what the city would do or a time frame.
“We’re looking for a plan to get the building fixed up,” Falotico said. “Under the circumstances, we’ve given them more than a sufficient amount of time.”
The Metroplex Development Authority has had a similar lack of response to its efforts, Chairman Ray Gillen said this week.
The authority hired a national engineering firm in May to prepare plans to renovate the building and the firm submitted its plans in mid-August. The authority sent a letter to the owners in October, but Gillen said there has been no response since an August meeting.