It’s hard to imagine a Saratoga summer without long days spent at Saratoga Race Course. The New York Racing Association’s (NYRA’s) announcement that Saratoga’s racing season will likely be held without fans in attendance (we’re still crossing our fingers for a miracle!) was a tough blow for the Spa City, but all hope for a fun summer season isn’t lost: Area bars and restaurants are stepping up to replace the track as the new “it” gathering place.
One such establishment is Racing City Brewing Co., whose name gives away just how deeply ingrained horse racing is in the family-owned venture. Owners Tony and Debreen Oliva originally started coming to Saratoga on Travers weekend with their kids, but that turned into a full week the next year, and a month the year after that. “By the fourth year, we owned a house right in town,” says Debreen. “We couldn’t get enough of it.” It’s that same sense of loyalty that the Olivas are hoping will continue bringing fans back to Racing City Brewing this summer.
The brewery, which has been located just outside Downtown Saratoga on Excelsior Avenue since its opening in 2018, is the perfect venue to generate a core group of regulars for socially distanced viewings of the races. With a large outdoor space and a 23×14-foot TV screen, guests will be able to enjoy the electric race day atmosphere and watch their favorite horses on the big screen, making bets from their smartphones. Racing City Brewing will, of course, have its full selection of house-made beers (numbered and color-coded like racehorses) available, as well as wine, cocktails and nonalcoholic beverages, which can be ordered online and picked up at the bar—no contact necessary. At press time, the kitchen was closed, but the Olivas were hoping to establish relationships with local restaurants, so guests could have food delivered there. The brewery is also already accepting table reservations via Square for major stakes weekends.
Debreen says she’s thankful for the resounding support from the community during the COVID-19 crisis, and is looking forward to Racing City’s chance to bring the races to fans despite this nontraditional Saratoga summer: “We obviously want to do our part to give back, and also provide what we provide best, which is great beer, good wine and a fun time.”