Entertainment destination celebrates one year anniversary with ribbon cutting ceremony

ALBANY, NY: A celebration for event venues Empire Live and Empire Underground one year in the making was held on August 26, 2022. Joining Owners Ted Etoll, Dave Siewert, and Stan Levinstone, and Redburn Development Partners Principal Jeff Buell at the 93 N Pearl Street ribbon cutting ceremony were Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Senator Neil Breslin, Assemblymember John T. McDonald III, RPh, Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, and Albany Counsel to the County Executive Jeffrey Jamison.  


Indie band Cold War Kids opened Empire Live on August 26, 2021, with about 700 attendees ushering in a new era of Albany’s Central Social District. Since then, the combined 104 years of industry experience of the owners and managers has served to attract approximately 60,000 people to Empire Live and Empire Underground events, including internationally renowned Mongolian band The HU, a Taylor Swift dance party, and everything in between.


The arrival of the two venues in Downtown was years in the making, the result of a confluence of Redburn Development Partners beginning work on their newly acquired portfolio of Downtown buildings and the Upstate Concert Hall owners seeking a location more conducive to live entertainment. Due to physical limitations of the existing space, in 2016 the owners of the Clifton Park venue began considering a move. Having looked at several potential spaces, it was once Buell showed them the Capital Repertory Space in 2019 that a move to downtown Albany – which they call the heart of the city – became an easy decision for Etoll, Siewert, and Levinstone.  


A yearlong gut renovation by Redburn’s team followed, transforming the space from a theatre into two venues that cover 15,500 square feet and can hold 1,350 people total. With the renovated spaces came the desire to rebrand under a name that represented the magnitude of the project and what its completion would bring to the community. Newly named and constructed, Empire Live and Empire Underground both offer higher-quality experiences for fans and artists alike thanks to taller ceilings and larger stages that accommodate higher-quality production capabilities including sound and lighting, unobstructed views, and lower wait times for drinks thanks to bars that are more conveniently located within the venues. A team effort all around, the partners acknowledge that Operations Manager Jennifer Chura was instrumental in ensuring that both the move and planning for the venue’s improvements were effectively and efficiently implemented. 


For any business, a one-year anniversary is an important milestone, but for the owners of Empire Live and Empire Underground, it also represents a gratifying experience in the wake of COVID. Having spent their first year in a new city and newly-created spaces working through a pandemic that decimated their industry, the owners credit their staff, the Downtown community for welcoming them with open arms, and partners and promoters including Redburn Development Partners, Upstate Black and Blue, High Peaks Sound, Guthrie Bell, Sugar Productions, Live Nation, After Dark, Food Near Me, The Hollow Bar + Kitchen, The Bishop, Dawn's Victory Sports Cafe, Wizard Burger, Miranda's Deli, Skinny Pancake, Parish Public House, Overit Media, and Downtown Albany BID, for helping to get them through the first year.  


Empire Live and Empire Underground Co-Owner Dave Siewert said: “We put our heart and souls into what we do. The waves of COVID took their toll, but we are grateful for a community that rallied behind us, helping to literally build us up, feed us, and support us. Music is therapeutic and brings people together, and now more than ever people are seeking collective experiences, and we are thrilled to serve as a community hub, a place for meeting people with similar interests, or exposure to art and culture that may be unfamiliar to our patrons. We are grateful for every fan who has attended an event here, and we look forward to welcoming more people as the Empire Live and Empire Underground calendars continue to fill up.” 


Mayor Kathy Sheehan said: “Empire Live has truly exceeded expectations for the historic 93 N Pearl site in Albany’s vibrant and ever-growing Downtown neighborhood, especially in the face of a pandemic and the accompanying economic uncertainty for the entertainment industry. It is so encouraging to know that 60,000 people have visited Empire Live in one year alone, and the positive impact that has on our restaurants, bars, hotels, and other local businesses cannot be overstated. Amenities like Empire Live are why more and more people are calling downtown Albany home, and I sincerely thank Ted, David, Stan, and Redburn Development for remaining committed to New York’s Capital City through this historic pandemic and look forward to many more successful years ahead.” 

Senator Neil Breslin said: “Heartfelt congratulations to Empire Live and Empire Underground! The Capital District residents look forward to the exciting live events and entertainment these venues will host. These destinations are giving new opportunities to local musicians, as well as big name music groups that want to share their talents with our community. Your perseverance and hard work amidst the many challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic are admirable. Cheers to Ted, David, Stan, and Jeff for a job well done, and congrats again on your one-year anniversary and continued success!”


Assemblymember John T. McDonald III, RPh said: "Congratulations to Empire Live and Empire Underground on this milestone. Opening an entertainment venue during a pandemic can be described as challenging at best but the owners have persevered and this one-year anniversary is just the beginning. I wish you continued success and thank you for bringing this space to downtown Albany." 

Assemblymember Patricia Fahy said: “Entertainment venues like Empire Live breathe life into our community and contribute to downtown Albany’s already lively atmosphere. I look forward to seeing more of this venue’s impact on our local economy and community, and congratulate them on their formal ribbon cutting today. If you haven’t already, make sure to get down to Empire Live for a show!”


County Executive Daniel P. McCoy said: “There are very few businesses that have had the kind of economic impact that the new Empire Live and Empire Underground are having in downtown Albany. Not only are the owners bringing in well-known acts that attract crowds from around the state and into our local restaurants, bars and other shops, but they’re also providing a venue for lesser-known artists who are getting their start in the music scene. These new additions to the neighborhood, alongside the new residential buildings and so many other developments, are breathing new life into the city. I want to congratulate Ted, David, Stan and Redburn Development on the one-year anniversary, and to thank them for their investment in our community.” 


Redburn Development Partners Principal Jeff Buell said: “Redburn exists to energize our region’s downtowns, and I can’t think of a better way to fulfill that mission than bringing in two entertainment venues to the downtown Albany neighborhood. Watching as hundreds of people poured out onto the streets after Empire Live’s first show one year ago today was an experience like no other, and we are thrilled – but not at all surprised – with how many shared experiences Ted, Dave, Stan, and their team have brought to this community.” 


Downtown Albany BID Executive Director Georgette Steffens said: “We are thrilled to welcome this incredible entertainment venue to Albany’s Central Social District. Our District continues to experience industry leaders understanding the value of investing and locating here, and we are grateful for the vision that Ted, David, and Stan had for this space, to Redburn for making it possible, and to the community who has been reintroduced to our District for a variety of events that get your heart pounding.”  


Located at 93 N Pearl Street, event information for Empire Live/Empire Underground can be found at empirelivealbany.com. For updates, follow them on Instagram instagram.com/empirelivealbany, Facebook at facebook.com/EmpireLiveAlbany, and Twitter at twitter.com/empirelive518


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Since 1996, the Downtown Albany Business Improvement District (BID) has worked to restore, promote and maintain the character and vitality of downtown Albany and improve the quality of life and overall image of downtown for those who work in, live in and visit New York’s Capital City. The BID is a private, not-for profit 501(c) (3) organization. For more information about Downtown Albany BID please visit downtownalbany.org or call 518.465.2143.