O’Toole’s Roadhouse Restaurant at Salmon Run Mall
In 1988, O’Toole’s Roadhouse Restaurant would join the Ground Round, which opened two years prior, as another sit-down restaurant at the Salmon Run Mall. The two eateries would cater to similar tastes with typical American bar food as well as late night clientele.
Ground Round would begin as a venture by the Howard Johnson’s chain in 1969 and still has restaurants in service, though under an Independent Owners Cooperative, LLC as of 2010. O’Toole’s Roadhouse Restaurant would begin in 1984, but close operations and canceled the trademark as of March 1, 1993. Any O’Toole’s Pubs and/or Restaurants in existence today are most likely not affiliated with O’Toole’s Roadhouse Restaurant, or were independent franchises.
Just two months after opening on August 3, 1988, O’Toole’s would find itself the topic of local news and a complaint to the liquor board. On Oct. 3, 1988, the Watertown Daily Times would report–
A series of small fights which broke out among Fort Drum soldiers early Sunday morning at O’Toole’s Restaurant in Salmon Run Mall has prompted Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department to file a complaint with the New York State Division of Alcoholic Beverage control.
Two soldiers are being charged after they punched other soldiers, said sheriff’s deputies, who estimated that about 20 persons were involved in several exchanges.
The deputy who had filed the complaint noted there were continuous issues with fighting and alleged there have been hazing incidents and drug-pushing activity in the restaurant. With regards to the 20-person melee, city police were dispatched to assist with the incident.
With the expansion of Fort Drum in the mid 1980s, it was estimated that its payroll was $190 million for military and another $35.9 million for civilians, making it a major impact on the local economy which included Salmon Run Mall and places like Ground Round and O’Toole’s who would reap the benefits as a goo majority of those dollars would go back into the local economy.
By early 1989, O’Toole’s had pretty much become a G.I. bar, though under-aged soldiers passing false identification was a problem at just about any drinking establishment including the Ground Round. On January 27, the Times would report six Fort Drum soldiers were arrested in one hour in three separate incidents, all involving attempts to enter O’Toole’s with false identification.
In a separate Times article the previous day, January 26, 1989, O’Toole’s manager Suzanne M. Delaney acknowledged the club got off to a rough start, but “the night life has calmed down to where people come and have a good time.”
It was further stated–
Miss Delaney said she does not mind the G.I. crowd, which she estimated accounts for 80 percent of her night business and 65 to 70 percent overall. “I have no problem with them,” she said.
When O’Toole’s opened a franchise in Watertown, it was not aimed specifically art the Drum crowd, she said, but “it kind of happened that way.”
O’Toole’s would prove to be popular and with the 80’s soon coming to an end, everything seemed to be going well. Even Dr. Lazaro, Floyd Misek’s Culinary Commentary special to the Times, would say “O’Toole’s is perfect for a summertime lunch” after reviewing their triple-treat platter with ribs. As the United States entered a recession the following year, however, traffic at the mall would be considerably slower for some time.
Although the recession technically only lasted through March of 1991, it was characterized by a sluggish employment recovery. Coupled with Operation Desert Shield/Storm and then support for recovery from Hurricane Andrew in Florida, the local economy would suffer longer than hoped for.
On September 28, 1993, O’Toole’s announced its closing, just two months after Ground Round exited leaving Salmon Run Mall with no sit-down restaurants. The restaurant’s manager would blame the poor economy. As the Times reported–
O’Toole’s Roadhouse Restaurant and bar at Salmon Run Mall Closed Monday because it has not turned a profit in two years, O’Toole’s management reported.
Patricia Cardamone, operations manager for the Toronto-based restaurant chain, said declines in the number of Canadian shoppers and mall traffic, as well as the recession in general, was to blame for the restaurant’s closing.
“Basically, it’s due to the overall economy,” Mrs. Cardamone said. “It’s a hard time for anyone in the restaurant business.”
A weakening Canadian dollar and shop-at-home campaigns cut into the traffic at the mall, down about 10% from the previous year whereas the Canadian dollar had lost .12¢ in value over the course of the last two years.
Salmon Run Mall would seek a tenant for the Ground Round space and three years after its departure, they finally landed local restauranteur Leo Coleman’s “Barkeaters” in late 1996. To my knowledge, no other restaurant ever replaced the former O’Toole’s location.
Flashback to 1988: What Were The Stores/Restaurants/Eateries At Salmon Run Mall?