According to the Albany Business Review, local businessman and chef, Mike Fortin, is selling Joe’s Tavern, an 86 year old institution in suburban Albany, in a place called Cohoes He plans to relocate his business with a new restaurant at 1475 Route 9 in Halfmoon, New York, in a 4,000 square foot, vacant building.
The address may be familiar to locals because it is the former address of the Italian restaurant, Romano’s.
The address may be familiar to a smaller number of locals, and some from Vancouver and various places in Mexico, and especially to some of those who lived nearby in a townhouse subdivision called Knox Woods. That is because it is the former clubhouse/meeting place for NXIVM.
It was called Apropos.
Fortin, who also owns Max410 at the Van Schaick Island Country Club, is selling Joe’s Tavern because it is too small for his growing business and because there is no parking there.
The building, which we will always fondly refer to as Apropos is 4,010 square feet, and it sits on a 1.5 acre site with a 90 car parking lot.
It was formerly owned by Clare Bronfman, who in turn sold it to Michael Klimkewicz, who owns a nearby liquor store, Halfmoon Wine and Liquor.
He bought the property in 2019 for a reported $650,000 from the Seagram’s heiress who is now serving a 6.75 year sentence at the Philadelphia Federal Detention Center.
Fortin is leasing the property and plans to renovate Apropos to include a bar, a back bar, and a deck. Construction for the deck is expected to occur during the spring of 2022. Fortin will remove an office to add more kitchen space.
It should be a good location. According to the state Department of Transportation, the section of Route 9 has an average daily traffic count of approximately 20,000 vehicles per day, .
Fortin said he will be looking to bring his current staff from Joes and add 30 additional employees.
NXIVM’s main teaching facility was in Colonie, a 20 minutes drive away.
Clare Bronfman purchased the property in 2006 for $650,000 for NXIVM, and despite owning it for 13 years before selling it, she did not get any more than she paid. When Bronfman bought the building, it required substantial work. It is estimated that Bronfman spent several hundred thousand dollars remodeling the property and bringing it up to code.
When Bronfman purchased the property, the planning board of Halfmoon did not want to approve the use of it for teaching.
NXIVM officials assured the town planning board that they would only use the property as a café and clubhouse and there would be no conference rooms or training, which turned out to be untrue.
There was a private café, not open to the public. Nxivm members could purchase vegetarian food and meet with coaches and other Nxivm members.
As far as is known, there were no brandings that took place on the property. However, Apropos was the site of at least one of the human fright experiments performed by Dr. Brandon Porter, for which he lost his medical license.
Kobelt said she had agreed to help her friend and fellow Nxian, Dr. Porter, with a research study in August 2016.
They went to Apropos. The room was dark. She sat in front of a TV and wore a cap with sensors. There was a camera in front to record her facial expressions, and a machine behind her. She was shown a video that had a gang rape scene from the 1988 Jodie Foster film The Accused.
Kobelt recalled that she told Porter, “Turn it off! I can’t watch this! Why the fuck are you showing me this?”
“What’s going on for you, Jen?” Porter asked.
He then showed another clip – from American History X – which showed a white supremacist, played by Edward Norton, killing a black man by stomping his face into a curb.
Kobelt said she burst out crying but then the tenor of the videos changed and she watched a number of happy clips.
Porter said he had one more clip to show but was nervous because of her “intense reactions” to the earlier films
Not wanting to appear weak, Kobelt said, ‘Just fucking do it.’”
The next clip was a a real film of four men in a cornfield, with bandanas over their mouths, and guns in hand, who chopped the heads off of four women who were on their knees, several of them topless, with arms behind their backs.
Before doing the beheading, the four men, positioning themselves behind the women, grabbed them by the hair. They chopped their heads off with machetes.
Kobelt was shocked. She had tears and snot, she said, dripping down her face.
Porter asked her, “What’s going on for you?”
Porter suggested Kobelt have an Exploration of Meaning, or EM, to find out about her reactions to some of the clips.
Koberlt said she thought, “I don’t know if this is something I want to resolve. I don’t know if I ever want to be OK with gang rape. Or… murder by machete.”
She went to where she was staying, had a shower, then she said she texted her NXIVM coach: “Hey, I really need an Exploration of Meaning.”
Kobelt was one of the few women of her age and slenderness that was not recruited into DOS. She was not even asked.
In addition to teaching classes, providing refreshments and conducting experiments at Apropos, coaches summit were held at Apropos including what might have been the last one, on January 10, 2018, just two and half months before Raniere was arrested.
NXIVM coaches from around the world would come to Albany and pay around $500, plus travel and accommodations, to get the latest lessons from the High Rank of NXIVM.
Raniere did not attend the last one, for he was in Mexico.
In the past, coaches summits were generally two days of summits and two days of networking, games and hanging out. One summit consisted almost entirely of coaches writing letters to coaches who did not attend, chastising them for not attending and cajoling them to attend the next summit.
The meals were included as part of the coaches summit fee,.
Quorn, a vegan protein, was on the menu.
A warning about the product is “after eating Quorn™ products … some flatulence may develop in susceptible individuals – this generally only occurs after the first few times of eating the products and soon disappears.”
At Apropos there was a members based group called Star Point, where Nxians could come to Apropos and have co-working spaces, to work on NXIVM-related projects, and could order food while working, for instance, on their computers.
There was a $10 admission fee to get into Start Point which entitled you to a discount on food. At one time Apropos was available to Star Point members 24 hours per day.
Clare Bronfman reportedly described the food served at Start Point as “remarkable.”
Fortin has a long way to go if he plans to match, with seafood and steaks, the excellent and harm-free products like Quorn that Clare Bronfman endorsed.
When he first bought the property, Klimkewicz said he saw no reason why NXIVM’s prior involvement would deter anyone from leasing or redeveloping the site.
I see it aa little more optimistically. I think the rich NXIVM history there is a plus. If I were to develop the restaurant I would load it with NXIVM memorabilia and photos and make it a talking point. It could become a local landmark. And tourists would come not only for a good meal but also for the experience of being in a place where so many activities took place of that ever-growingly famous group that many like to think of as a cult.
As a tip to Fortin, I would put Quorn prominently on the menu.