Hofbrau draws curtain on summer season

The Enterprise — Marcello Iaia

Twilight at The Hofbrau: The restaurant seats 220 inside with extra seating outside, overlooking the lake. In its heyday, it was filled, but the people who live near the water make up more and more of those who use it.

WARNER LAKE — Between long days working for the sheriff’s office and running the lake’s only business, Kevin Demarest decided this month to close The Hofbrau restaurant after 14 months.

He pursued his longtime desire to open a restaurant when he leased the large lakefront property from John Pleat, opening in April 2013. Demarest said he was promoted from senior telecommunicator to communications supervisor at the beginning of this year and had to choose between his two jobs.

“It was a good experience,” Demarest said Wednesday. “I met a lot of nice people and it was very rewarding, it just got to the point where it got real busy.” Pleat could not be reached for comment.

Demarest announced his decision on Facebook on June 3, thanking his staff and telling readers, “Thank you again so very much and I hope to have a drink with you on the other side of the bar someday (you can find me at the Maple Inn).”

The Hofbrau was once the Zwicklbauer Hofbrau restaurant and resort, owned by Karl Zwicklbauer for 26 years. Reinhold Scholz carried on the tradition of serving German American foods, acquiring the restaurant in 1976.

By then, Willard Osterhout had closed his beach and snack bar on the lake in East Berne where residents and tourists swam during the summers. He said residential pools, air conditioning, and the development of parks in Bethlehem and Guilderland thinned the crowds that came to Warner Lake.

“Liability insurance kept going up every year and our number of customers kept going down,” said Osterhout, a 44-year resident of the lake, who owns its main boat launch. “Until you reached a point of no return and said, ‘This is crazy.’”

A beach at the restaurant was once full of people, and a third beach with a snack bar, O’Hanlon’s on the south end, was open to visitors as well. Osterhout’s and O’Hanlon’s have since become residences and Demarest recently renovated the former snack bar at The Hofbrau.

A boat launch at the restaurant has been used mainly by the Albany Jewish Community Center, which Osterhout said runs three power boats for its teen camp on the lake during the day on weekdays. The motorboat traffic has been an issue on the lake for residents who want a quieter community.

Some residents protested The Hofbrau’s boat launch in 2011, concerned about introducing invasive zebra mussels to the lake, and the wake caused by the camp’s power boats.

“There are people that like the idea of having a restaurant on the lake,” said Lee Jones, a treasurer for the Warner’s Lake Improvement Association since the 1970s. “There are other people that do have issues with it, because of where they live in proximity to it.”

The Hofbrau had polka bands and round dances in its days of German owners. Demarest in the past year hosted local bands and disc jockeys for holiday parties.

The restaurant can seat 220 people inside and about 40 more outside on its deck overlooking the lake.

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