With Ken Burns' new PBS documentary Prohibition on the air this fall, speakeasy-type settings have been in demand. Chris Ryan '86 made his acting debut as a mouthy bootlegger in related project, William Kennedy's Prohibition Story, and his picturesque establishment, Ryan's Wake Public House in Troy, New York, served as a filming location.
In this 30-minute documentary, actors including Ryan recreated scenes from the life and times of the infamous East Coast gangster Jack “Legs” Diamond. Ryan's true calling, however, is not acting, but entrepreneurship with a civic bent. “A true pub is more than a bar,” says Ryan. “It's a community space, where people of all walks of life relax and congregate after work. It's often the first setting for important civic conversations that lead to real change in a small community like ours.” The Wagner business major got his start in the hospitality industry by working at the Union and the Hawk's Nest. In Troy, he has helped turn the Hudson River waterfront into a bustling entertainment district through his work with Brown's Brewing Co. and its adjacent performance space, Revolution Hall. In 2005, he opened Ryan's Wake Public House on the same block, naming it in homage to the Ryan family funeral business and the tradition of celebrating life at an Irish wake.