Eli Ruiz | Democrat
Organizers and beneficiaries of the Lazy Beagle fundraiser gathered at Cracolici's on the Green last Sunday. Front row: Lazy Beagle manager Peter Howley and former Lazy Beagle waitress and Howley's girlfriend Kerry O'Gara. Back row: Sal Cracolici, Frank Godlewski and Fallsburg High School Principal and bartender for the day Michael Williams.
Easing a tough situation
By Eli Ruiz
LIBERTY January 18 It’s been nearly two months since the propane explosions and subsequent fire that gutted Livingston Manor’s historic Hoos building, taking with it the four businesses housed in the structure, including the Lazy Beagle restaurant.
And although no one was killed or even hurt in the fast moving blaze, that does not mean that there were no victims that afternoon just days before Thanksgiving.
For the folks who made their living running and working at the Lazy Beagle, “It’s just been a real struggle,” says former Lazy Beagle manager Peter Howley. “The waitresses have yet to find any work and everyone is just struggling at this point… they need help.”
To that end, last Sunday, a fundraiser was held at Cracolici’s on the Green in Liberty to benefit the restaurant’s former waitstaff. The fundraiser was the brainchild of Fallsburg HS Assistant Principal (and former Livingston Manor teacher) Frank Godlewski, while restaurateur Sal Cracolici opened the doors to his Liberty restaurant/golf course for the event.
Asked what motivated him to put the event together, Godlewski said, as he pointed at Howley, “This here is my boy… my best friend and it’s funny because when we met we both realized we were Queens guys. But in the end, it’s about the waitstaff. I didn’t even have to think about it.”
Ryan Foster, whose father Barry owned the Hoos building, and whose brother Sims was proprietor of the Lazy Beagle, said in an interview with the Democrat, “My father owned the building for the last 10 years… it was an institution and a building that was in our lives for all our lives. My grandmother had a store in that building when I was a child and we all used to run around the building growing up. I think that for everyone in Livingston Manor, that building meant something special to them.”
Asked if there were any plans to rebuild or reopen the Lazy Beagle, Foster explained, “Right now we’re just focused on cleaning up the site and straightening out all the insurance matters… then maybe we can make some decisions. But right now I can’t say definitely no or yes.”
Lazy Beagle waitress Kerry O’Gara, who attended the benefit event, said when asked how she’s been since the fire, “Not too good. It’s just been really tough finding a new job.”
O’Gara did say that she was able to work twice at the Villa Roma in Callicoon over the holidays, but added, “It’s just so slow this time of year. I’ve been calling but there’s just nothing happening right now.”
A native of NYC, O’Gara admits that she’s having a hard time dealing with the slower pace and lack of jobs in the area. “It’s just so different up here, so quiet this time of year… it’s really tough,” she said.
With all of the loose ends the Foster family still has to get settled, and the local economy the way it is, you’d think that the chances of seeing a new Lazy Beagle were quite far off.
“Not so fast,” said Godlewski, who offered, “I’m going to tell you that right now we are actually trying to get the Beagle reopened. Whether it’s with the old ownership or with me we want to reopen, but it has to be in Livingston Manor… that’s where it belongs.”
Added Howley, “We’ve actually had some opportunities with other investors in Neversink, Liberty or Roscoe, but that’s a dealbreaker because it has to reopen in Livingston Manor. It’s important to that town, and it was one of the few bright spots for the town.”
Still obviously reeling from the loss of what he called, “A part of my family,” Ryan Foster said, “You know, tomorrow they will be trucking out the very last load of the debris from the building and then we’ll be down to the basement. It’s just going to be a lot tougher to look at, I think, because now there really is just nothing there… it’s just sad.”
For information on how to make donations to the former waitstaff of the Lazy Beagle please call Cracolici’s on the Green at 747-4337, or stop in at 2514 NYS Route 52, in Liberty.