Food

Circa’s Reincarnation Hits Roadblock

Plans to reopen popular local restaurant Circa recently fell through.

Michael Davis photo

If you’ve been craving a Circa burger — or braised short ribs, local cheese plates, a spring salad or anything seasonal and local prepared by chef Alicyn Hart — you’re going to have to wait longer. 

Hart was scheduled to open a new version of Circa New American Bistro, her much-loved Cazenovia restaurant, a few miles down the road, in Nelson, this spring. Work has been progressing at Nelson Corners, a cluster of mostly commercial buildings being redeveloped and renovated by Nelson resident Nancy Demyttenaere. The retail district, at the corner of Route 20 and Erieville Road, is currently home to Peaks Coffee Co. and Humble Harvest Brewing, a nanobrewery scheduled to open this spring. Nelson Farms; the Nelson Odeon; Route 20 Sofa Company; and new greenhouse and florist, Spruce Ridge Landscape and Design, are close by. 

Hart was looking forward to opening a reimagined Circa in a community with a lot of “positive energy and moving parts.” The restaurant space was starting to take shape. Demyttenaere gutted it to the bones, Hart said, and has added new windows, flooring, insulation, electrical, plumbing and more.

But when issues arose over details of the lease agreement, Hart said she made the decision to step out. She added that she and the Nelson Corners developer have “different visions,” and that when conflicts developed, their business relationship unraveled quickly.

“In the end, I suppose, we just had different ideas,” Hart said. “It just didn’t feel right.” 

Nancy Demyttenaere was not available for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Hart opened Circa in 2006 at 75 Albany St. (Route 20) in Cazenovia and established a reputation as a trailblazer in the local food movement, sourcing much of the restaurant’s meat, produce, dairy and other ingredients from Madison County farms and producers. When she suspended restaurant operations in June of 2014, she cited a series of rent increases, with no improvements to the space and building, as the reason for her decision. She hoped, at one time, to move the restaurant to another location in the village, but nixed that plan after encountering opposition from neighbors and the village planning board.

She has worked as a chef for the last two winters at the Foggy Goggle Restaurant at Toggenburg Mountain Winter Sports Center while exploring options and considering other locations for a reborn Circa. She describes herself and her restaurant as “homeless,” and is optimistic, yet uncertain what her next step will be.

“I’m back to square one,” Hart said Wednesday.

For updates on Circa and Alicyn Hart, visit the Circa Facebook page.

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