Earlier this week, fans of Liberty Street Bistro were shocked by a string of social media posts announcing that the restaurant was closing on November 19. LSB's imminent demise is the latest in a series of beloved eateries that have closed since the beginning of the pandemic. Co-owner Alexandra Kelly told the Times-Herald Record the closure is due to a number of factors. "The state of the world, the pandemic, inflation," she said. "We can't make people change their diet habits to pre-pandemic and we can't make prices go back to pre-pandemic."Opened by Cornwall native Michael Kelly with his wife Alexandra in 2016, the restaurant drew on Kelly's experience working in some of Manhattan's finest kitchens under the likes of Thomas Keller, Gordon Ramsay, and Markus Glocker. French-influenced but not a French restaurant, Kelly and his staff executed technically masterful, memorable food.
In a 2019 interview, I asked Kelly what led him to open a fine dining establishment in Newburgh. "I had become really good friends with the owners of the Newburgh Brewery. We're still good friends. My wife and I got married there. It was actually [Newburgh Brewery brewmaster] Chris Basso who said to me, 'Hey, you know there's this antique store up the street that's closing. The space is for rent, and I know you've been looking for a restaurant space. This is the spot," Kelly said. "I like the idea of being able to move the needle a little bit for anything, whether it's some sort of a way to improve a neighborhood. I think we do play a hand in that. I think you've seen good news come out of Newburgh recently, right? Lowest crime rate in 10 years. Did Liberty Street Bistro do that? No, but it didn't hurt it either."
Despite the closing of Liberty Street, fans of Kelly can still buy his baked goods at Newburgh Flour Shop, which is soon to have a second location at the Academy Food Hall in Poughkeepsie. They can also grab a tropical drink at the recently opened Jet Set, a tiki bar on the Newburgh waterfront in which Kelly is a partner.
At the end of my 2019 interview with Kelly, I asked him why Liberty Street Bistro, which was then serving two-, three-, and four-course tasting menus ($39-$53), was also selling dollar oysters. "We don't have it easy being in downtown Newburgh," Kelly said. "If you're from the Hudson Valley, probably every older person in your life has told you not to come here. Convincing people to get here is probably our biggest challenge, but once they're here, they come back. The dollar oyster thing was like, 'Come to the bar. Have some oysters and a cocktail,' and maybe that's our first date. And maybe I'll ask you for a kiss on the way home."