Childhood neighbor Billy Paladino, now CEO of Ellicott Development and mastermind of the multiuse Pearl Street build, and Cowan – a successful restaurateur – had always dreamed of working together on a major project. But what they didn't plan was the fulfillment would be in memory of a relative and close friend.
Patrick's Rooftop remembers Patrick Paladino, who died from injuries suffered in a one-car crash in 2009. Patrick – a lively character – was Billy's younger brother and a close buddy of Cowan.
"For me, to be [Billy's] partner on the rooftop, to be part of something so special, the only thing to do was to name it after Patrick," Cowan said. "It's been 10 years since he passed, and this probably would have been his bar, he definitely would have been part of it. He was such a different type of person – his energy level was just insane. For me to step in his shoes and to represent him up here, it's just a dream come true."
Patrick's Rooftop opened July 18 on the 13th floor of 500 Pearl – comprising the former Buffalo Christian Center and a new 12-story build – which boasts five floors of parking, the W XYZ Bar (on the upper level of the first floor), the Aloft Hotel, multiple event spaces, high-end apartments and soon-to-open Vice, a full-scale restaurant and Fresh Catch Poke.
The idea and execution of the rooftop was a meticulous effort by Cowan, Paladino and design specialist Jillian Czyz. The final product seats 250 to 275 and will remain open year-round, with four, 8-foot-long fire pits. Hurricane-strength windows and radiant heating keep the outdoors inviting in late fall and early spring.
Despite the owners' sentimental value, it's the rooftop view that's the selling point for the business, the reason for the 90-minute wait for entry at midnight on a recent Saturday. The layout allows for consistent views, even from indoors, that range from Lake Erie to New Era Field to Roswell Park to Niagara Falls. While the lake breeze can occasionally force customers to clutch their drinks or duck inside, the sights are spectacular on calm days.
The surfboard-shaped bar, with service on all sides, and window scheme allow for close to 360-degree views in both warm and cold weather. Design influences – such as the hanging lighting, bar shape, color scheme and greenery along the patio – stem from San Diego, Fort Lauderdale and New York City.
"It's almost like Buffalo needed something like this," said Cowan, who owns Elmwood Avenue's Forty Thieves and South Buffalo's Doc Sullivan's. "It gives people an excuse to dress up, to feel like they're on a vacation almost. People are like, 'Oh my god, I feel like I'm not in Buffalo anymore.'
"You can't hear the traffic downstairs, you can't hear yelling or cars. It's like you took a quick little vacation right outside of Buffalo. No one has been able to sit on a patio in Buffalo and look over the whole city."
[Related: Forty Thieves brings "Cheers" feel, Irish flair to Elmwood]
Only three beer taps – all local, with Ellicottville Brewing Company, Hamburg Brewing's gose and Thin Man's Burning Money available in early August – are used, but popular frosé (frozen rosé wine in slushy form) complements the more subdued rosé. Jay Frese oversees the beverage program for 500 Pearl at large, while Mack Spencer fills the role specifically for the rooftop bar.
There's some humility stemming from Cowan's South Buffalo bar background; his first job was as a dishwasher at Blackthorn. Although there's an upscale cocktail list and bottle service, there's domestic beer, a robust offering of whiskey and a neighborhood feel that's still being cultivated.
"It's a higher-end lounge, but the back bar will mimic your local 'Cheers,' " said Cowan, who wants Patrick's Rooftop to be a place where groups can feel comfortable meeting.
Snack-style food service begins the week of Aug. 19, featuring a charcuterie plate, wraps and flatbreads. The rooftop may be booked for private events, however, which may include food catered by one of the kitchens on a lower floor.
The giant parking ramp is free to use, with elevators on each level to take customers straight to the rooftop. From inside 500 Pearl, rooftop customers are encouraged to go to W XYZ hotel bar and take the elevator up from there.
"The things I've been through in the restaurant business: the ups and downs, the concepts that worked and didn't work, the sleepless nights, the anxiety, the stress that comes along with this business, the hundreds of employees that have depended on me ... to open a place from start to finish, and to see a finished product this nice, means everything to me," Cowan said.
"That's been the most rewarding part of it. Naming it after a friend of mine that passed ... and being close to the sky, one of the higher parts of the city."
INFO: Patrick's Rooftop at 500 Pearl. Hours: 4 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, noon to 2 a.m. Saturday and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday.
• A previous iteration of this article called Patrick's Rooftop the "biggest" rooftop bar outside of Manhattan. That statement has been adjusted to the "highest" rooftop bar.