The Citizen's top five most-read stories of the work week.
Green Shutters in Owasco closes as latest operators leave
A summer tradition in the Auburn area has come to an early close, as Green Shutters once again finds itself without an operator.
The restaurant adjoining Emerson Park closed last week when operators and cousins Mike Schmidt and James White left the area to return to California, said Bob Leonardi, who owns the restaurant.
Last summer was Schmidt and White's first leasing Green Shutters from Leonardi. They overhauled the appearance and layout of the historic restaurant, and added several new menu items. But at the beginning of this summer, Schmidt and White began talking to Leonardi about leaving due to difficulty with the business and being away from family, he said. They decided to depart a few weeks ago.
OWASCO — Mike Schmidt and James White were still new to the Finger Lakes when they first ste…
"They're good people, it just wasn't the right fit," Leonardi said Monday. "We shook hands and they left with my best wishes."
Prior to Schmidt and White, Green Shutters was run for three years by caterer Floyd House, who left amid a legal clash with Leonardi over missed mortgage payments. Prior to House, it was run by Nick and Phil Siracusa, whose familiarity with the area Leonardi praised as an asset to the business. Leonardi has owned Green Shutters for 20 years, its fourth owner in about a century.
Leonardi said he is now looking for a new operator for next season, if not the tail end of this one.
"I'd love to get somebody local who's ambitious and would keep it open all year-round, bring back the breakfast business and provide what they need to in order for people to patronize it," he said.
Five designs, one winner: New Yorkers will choose new state license plate
New York will have a new official license plate in 2020, and the state's residents will select the design.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday launched a statewide survey to choose the new license plate. There are five designs and New Yorkers can cast their vote on the governor's website, now.ny.gov/page/s/vote-for-the-next-nys-license-plate-design.
In addition to the website, votes will be accepted at the governor's New York State Fair exhibit.
Voting opened Monday and ends at 11:59 p.m. Monday, Sept. 2.
The plate design that receives the most votes will become the state's official license plate. The plates, which will continue to be manufactured at Auburn Correctional Facility, will be available in April 2020.
"License plates are a symbol of who we are as a state and New Yorkers should have a voice and a vote in its final design," Cuomo said. "As the life span of the old plates comes to an end and we develop new ones that are as easy to read as possible, I encourage all residents to take part in choosing this piece of our state's history and the state fair is a perfect place to do that."
Four of the five designs have a white background. Two of the designs are similar and feature the state motto, "Excelsior," in gold lettering. Images of the Statue of Liberty appear on the left side of the two plate designs.
The third plate design has a bluish background and features an image of the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. The fourth design has a white background with the U.S. motto, "E pluribus unum," in the upper left and a map of the state in the upper right. "Excelsior" appears across the bottom and the Statue of Liberty's torch is in the middle.
The fifth design is similar to the first two, but with images of Niagara Falls, the Statue of Liberty and the New York City skyline across the bottom.
The new design is part of a state-led 10-year license plate replacement program. The new plates will replace the Empire blue and white plates. The state Department of Motor Vehicles will also stop issuing the Empire gold plates.
More than 3 million vehicles in New York have license plates that are at least 10 years old, according to the governor's office. Due to the age of the plates, many are damaged and peeling. Damaged plates cause legibility issues for law enforcement and cashless tolling systems.
The plates will be replaced when customers renew vehicle registrations. Those with license plates that are at least 10 years old will receive new plates. The $25 license plate replacement fee will be added to the registration renewal, Cuomo's office said.
For an additional $20 fee, customers may retain their license plate number.
"The time has come for New York to have a new license plate, which is why we worked hard to create design options that not only capture the heart of the Empire State, but also that our customers will be proud to put on their vehicles," New York DMV Commissioner Mark Schroeder said.
Thirstier Pug: Auburn craft beer taproom, shop moves to bigger space
AUBURN — When Mike Sigona opened the Thirsty Pug Craft Beer Market in June 2014, he wasn't easy to find. And he didn't have to be.
Back then, his customers were mostly craft beer diehards, often from well outside Cayuga County. They knew what they wanted — fresh India pale ales, rare sours, highly regarded Belgians — and they knew Sigona's Genesee Center bottle shop had it. After he added tap lines for on-site consumption the following year, he had even more of it.
So it didn't matter that the Thirsty Pug was tucked inside a mini-mall and all but invisible from the street. Those diehard customers tracked it down regardless. Anyone who didn't care for craft beer, meanwhile, was unlikely to walk through Sigona's door even if they did know where it was. Either way, he wasn't missing out on many potential customers.
Five years later, however, the craft beer scene has boomed. Cayuga County has gone from zero to six breweries. New York state passed 400 last year. And craft beer has slowly invaded supermarket shelves and chain restaurants. Far more people have a taste for it today, Sigona said. So he felt the time was right to take the Thirsty Pug somewhere they could find it.
"You see everybody trying stuff out and getting into it," he said Wednesday. "I think we were missing the boat being hidden."
At noon Friday, the Thirsty Pug will open at a new, more visible location at 131 Genesee St., the former Cayuga County Office of Tourism. It's twice as big as the old location, and boasts 13 tap lines to the old one's nine. There are more stools at the bar, which is still made of reclaimed bowling alley wood, as well as sidewalk tables and a "legacy nook" for longtime customers.
The shop's selection of canned and bottled beer, available to go, will mostly stay the same, Sigona said. For non-beer drinkers, his taproom will continue to offer wines and ciders from the Underground Bottle Shop. He'll still serve limited food, too, but customers are also welcome to order some from new neighbor Parker's Grille & Taphouse and eat it in the Thirsty Pug.
New additions will include bottle lists with Trappist (monk-made) and lambic (sour Belgian) beers to enjoy on-site. And with more lines, Sigona can pour a fuller selection of styles: pilsners and lagers, stouts and porters, kettle and mixed fermentation sours, and, of course, IPAs. He can also order bigger kegs, he continued, and pass the savings on to his customers in the form of lower prices.
The variety of styles on tap can work both ways. Customers who flinch at hoppy beers can stick to the other ones, while IPA fanatics can be tempted to branch out. At the same time, those who associate the most popular craft beer style with bitterness and aggressive booziness would be surprised by the complexity and fruit flavors of newer IPAs, Sigona said. He and his staff of three, who had to pass a beer quiz as part of the application process, are happy to offer such suggestions. Their level of expertise also translates to clean lines and fresh kegs, he said.
Many of those newer IPAs come from breweries in New York and the Northeast. And though the Thirsty Pug remains around the corner from one of the style's top producers in Prison City, as well as Good Shepherds now across the street, Sigona doesn't see much overlap. Those breweries serve almost exclusively their own beer, he said, leaving ones distributed from outside the area to him.
"I'm able to take advantage of thousands of world-class beers coming into the area without stepping on any toes," he said.
As Sigona welcomes new customers, however, the changing behavior of some of his old diehard ones poses a challenge. The beer they chased to his store five years ago has since become so available that they fixate even harder on what remains out of reach. Once a sought-after sour or IPA regularly arrives on his shelves, he said, it's not uncommon for the beer to go ignored.
All Sigona can do is hope people mature out of that mindset and appreciate what they can find at the new Thirsty Pug.
"You're never going to find anything better than what we have on the shelf," he said.
Pro anglers report fishing rods, reels stolen hours before Cayuga Lake tournament
Three Bassmaster Elite Series anglers had equipment stolen hours before the start of a tournament on Cayuga Lake Thursday morning.
Chris Zaldain, a two-time winner on the Elite Series, posted on social media about the thefts. He wrote that he and two other anglers — Ed Loughran III and Caleb Sumrall — had rods and reels stolen from their boats, which were parked at their rental house in Aurora.
After the first day of competition, Zaldain provided more details about what was stolen.
"I opened up my rod box and my whole top layer — my starting lineup of Megabass rods and Shimano reels, $1,000 combos — were just gone," Zaldain said in comments provided by B.A.S.S.
In his Instagram post, Zaldain wrote that Loughran had Shimano rods and reels stolen from his boat and Sumrall was missing Kistler rods and Daiwa reels.
Cayuga County Sheriff Brian Schenck told The Citizen that a report was filed, but because the anglers had to compete early in the day authorities weren't able to speak with them until after the weigh-ins.
As of Thursday night, it's unknown if the sheriff's office or the New York State Police are investigating the thefts.
While Zaldain said his day "started out really bad," the theft of his rods and reels didn't affect his performance on the water. He caught five bass that weighed 24 pounds, 5 ounces. He leads after the first round of the tournament.
"I decided to salvage what I had, re-tie a few things and just stick to what I knew," he said.
Sumrall is 28th after catching five bass weighing 17 pounds, 5 ounces in the first round. Loughran is 39th after he caught five bass weighing 16 pounds, 1 ounce.
The Elite Series tournament resumes Friday and runs through Sunday.
This is the third time Cayuga Lake has been a stop on the Elite Series circuit. The village of Union Springs hosted tournaments in 2014 and 2016.
Bassmaster Elite Series 2.JPG
Bassmaster Elite Series 1.JPG
Bassmaster Elite Series 3.JPG
Bassmaster Elite Series 4.JPG
Bassmaster Elite Series 5.JPG
Bassmaster Elite Series 6.JPG
Bassmaster Elite Series 7.JPG
Bassmaster Elite Series 8.JPG
Bassmaster Elite Series 9.JPG
Bassmaster Elite Series 10.JPG
Bassmaster Elite Series 11.JPG
Bassmaster Elite Series 12.JPG
Bassmaster Elite Series 13.JPG
Bassmaster Elite Series 14.JPG
Bassmaster Elite Series 15.JPG
Bassmaster Elite Series 16.JPG
Bassmaster Elite Series 17.JPG
Doctor returns to Auburn Community Hospital to lead cardiology department
The latest addition to Auburn Community Hospital's team is a familiar face, as the hospital announced Wednesday the new lead for its cardiology department practiced in Auburn for nearly 10 years.
Dr. Mukesh Sharma practiced at ACH from 2003 to 2012 before moving to North Carolina to practice at the Fayetteville VA Medical Center and teach medical students from Campbell University.
In a press release, Sharma said he was impressed with the new services and positive changes at ACH since his previous tenure, and was looking forward to serving the community.
"My family and I are excited to return to the Auburn community. The employees at Auburn Community Hospital are very focused on ensuring the patient experience is exceptional," Sharma said.
ACH President and CEO Scott Berlucchi said in the release that he was thrilled to have Sharma join the team, which is part of the hospital's strategic plan to bring services and physicians to Auburn so that patients can access care without driving to Syracuse or Rochester.
Other recent additions to the hospital include SUNY Upstate Medical University's breast surgery and breast cancer program, and Upstate's interim head of pulmonary/critical care.
"Our next steps are to focus on bringing other essential programs and services to Auburn including cancer care, which we hope to announce in the coming months," Berlucchi said.