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October 26, 2013

Jimmy T's a spacious, diverse gathering spot

Cathy B. Koplen Contributing Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Downtown Oneonta has a variety of venues for eating, drinking and making merry. Jimmy T’s Cocktail Lounge, a secret gem on the downtown scene, offers something different.

The restaurant and lounge is a tremendous area consisting of several sectioned rooms and interactive spaces, Jimmy T’s Cocktail Lounge is 8,000 square feet dedicated to fun, food and fraternizing.

“I would say we are more of a restaurant that anything,” said Owner James Tomaino. “We host meetings and gatherings in our banquet room, and we have birthday parties here — children’s birthdays, Sweet 16 parties and 40-year-old’s birthday parties. We are a nightclub 26 weekends out of the year. All of the other times we are opened, we serve tourists and families and the parents’ of college kids.”

The cocktail lounge opened under Tomaino’s direction on Sept. 8, 2012, after extensive renovation. Walking into the lounge from the South Main Street entrance, visitors may notice the preserved, historic remnants of the former Sears store which occupied the building in the 1970s. 

The white walls, finished in stucco, and supporting Moroccan sconces, feature arches that separate various dining areas. Behind the massive bar area there are iron-studded bars across wooden boards.

“As you can see all of our furniture is movable,” Tomaino said. “This way we can accommodate any type of function. We have bands and live D.J. on some weekend nights. This weekend, we will have a pre-Halloween costume contest with a live D.J.”

The lounge has a modern feel that is carried through in it minimalistic lounge sofas and slat-back chairs.

“My wife designed it and I built it — for the most part,” Tomaino said. “This is a family business. My family has been in the food business in Oneonta for a long time, and my wife’s family has been in the food business for a long time. We work hard and we do a lot. I am a great believer in the reemergence of downtown.”

Tomaino is a past president of Main Street Oneonta, a community organization committed to preserving downtown buildings and bringing more business and events to the downtown area. He and his wife’s family, the Ruffinos, own several buildings in downtown Oneonta, including the building that houses Jimmy T’s Cocktail Lounge.

“We really believe in downtown, we have made a commitment here,” Tomaino said. “There was a time, when we were younger, that people talked about going downtown. Now, people talk about going to Southside. I think it (downtown) is coming back. There is a lot going on downtown — look at the new lights they just put up, they are so nice. It makes a difference when people feel safe walking around, when it is well lit. And look at the Bresee’s building and the apartments and what the Historical Society is doing with their building. There is a lot of revitalization going on downtown.”

Tomaino, who moved from New Jersey to Oneonta when he was young spoke about the work ethic of his family and how they taught him to appreciate what he has and to work hard for his family. Tomaino and his wife have two daughters.

“This business is really fun, it is nice to meet people,” said Anna Tomaino, James’ wife, who works in the restaurant. “I am from here and I know a lot of people, but being here, I have met so many people from all over.”

Jimmy T’s Cocktail Lounge offers a full menu including dinner specials made from locally grown and raised meat and vegetables that change seasonally. The lounge also offers a tremendous selection of top-shelf liquor drinks, domestic, imported and craft beers — both on tap and in the bottle; and a large selection of wine.