Oasis Cafe and sake bar Katana at 58 Main St. in New Paltz shut its doors and closed a chapter of New Paltz
Bobby Downs, owner of Oasis Cafe and sake bar Katana, has been in the business of owning bars for 27 years. Over these years, he has split his time between Oasis and his old bar, The Griffon.
“I created bars for people to be comfortable in,” Downs said. “I built the bars because I wanted a place to hangout, and I ended up with a quilt of all memories.”
The New Paltz Times reported that Downs was, “given the opportunity to buy both 49 and 58 Main Street in the early 1990s because their owners were facing drug charges at a high level, and Downs was attractive as a buyer because he was ‘clean’ of any illegal activity.”
In a farewell post on Facebook Down said, “I hope you don’t mourn the passing of these smelly, dingy saloons. They lived lives created from the music and energy swirling within.”
Oasis was a space for community members to perform their music and talents, be creative and experiment. Oasis has previously hosted events including battle of the bands, drag shows, ‘80s night, DJs, local bands, benefit shows, comedy night and figure drawing night, just to name a few.
A few bartenders and a band, The Deadbeats, supported Downs throughout the years. Some have remained with him until the end.
“I took the wheel for more than 30 years,” Downs said. “Someone else can drive now.”
Jared Nelson, musician and jazz performance alumni at SUNY New Paltz, has performed multiple times at Oasis with bands including The Other Brothers, Keys to the Moon and Breakfast Potential.
“I think New Paltz really needed the sort of spot where people could go out, even if they were underage,” Nelson said. “Even if it was a bar at its core, it was, at the very least, something to do and somewhere to be seen.”
Oasis was a venue space for 18-year-olds to attend live music events. Since its closing, some community members wonder what will take Oasis’ spot on Main Street. “I think something needs to take its place as soon as possible, because having two bars that have live music doesn’t provide enough of a variety,” Nelson said.
On Downs’ public Facebook post, community members reminisced about meeting their current romantic partners, dancing to DJs and meeting some of their closest friends. Some were upset about the closing, while some shared more about what the bars meant to them.
“Oasis was the hangout spot and a great place to work,” said Steve Battaglia, a previous employee. “Oasis, The Griffon and Cabs [Cabaloosa] was inclusive, welcoming and a great community.”
Battaglia, known as Skoobz, worked his first gig as a bouncer in 2011, after the former manager gave him a shot. Now, Battaglia is a private security employee in Rhode Island, and he credits Oasis for getting his foot in the door for security jobs.
“I’ll miss the long nights of playing to packed rooms filled with smiling faces and dancing bodies,” Nelson said.