39 Problems owner closes bar and restaurant on Main Street in Albion

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 July 2020 at 8:14 am

File photos by Tom Rivers: Adam and Tina Johnson opened a bar and restaurant on North Main Street in Albion on March 1, 2018.

ALBION – The owner of the 39 Problems bar and restaurant in downtown Albion announced this morning the establishment is closed.

Adam Johnson said in Facebook post the business has always been a challenge to make money. But he and his wife Tina were determined to be a part of the solution to bringing traffic and renewed economic activity to historic downtown Albion. 39 Problems hosted live music and popular trivia nights.

However, the state response to Covid-19 proved too much to withstand. 39 Problems was closed to the public for about three months.

Johnson welcomed musicians and during a recent performance, someone called a state hotline to report the customers weren’t social distancing. Johnson said there were only about 10 people in the business at the time, and many of them came in as a group.

Johnson bristles that someone would report him, when it has been such a struggle to keep the business afloat.

“We are another empty storefront on Main Street,” Johnson posted on Facebook. “What’s next for me? As always, Tina and I will ‘keep going’, just like we always have. In fact, we are going to keep going right across the state border to somewhere that respects and welcomes people with a never-ending desire to accomplish something greater than themselves. NY loses another ambitious family. We are inviting our friends too, come along with us. Leave this state for the rats.”

Downtown Albion had been without a restaurant for several years. On March 1, 2018, Adam and Tina Johnson opened 39 Problems, a bar and restaurant on Main Street. The couple purchased the building, which includes three storefronts, in 2015. They worked diligently to renovate the site, while preserving its historic charm.

Adam and Tina purchased the building in 2015. He called the property an “ugly duckling” that nobody wanted. The building proved to be “a costly mistake” but the Johnsons didn’t give up. They first opened an ice cream business, the Frosty Bucket, in 2016 to generate some money for the property.

They switched to 39 Problems as a takeout/delivery in 2017 restaurant. On March 1, 2018, 39 Problems opened the dine-in restaurant and bar.

They named it 39 Problems because of the many obstacles and challenges they faced in trying to revive 39 North Main St.

“We were building a restaurant/bar where there had never been one before,” Johnson said in his post this morning. “For anyone not familiar with restaurant construction, there are a lot of moving parts to make it hum. It was a daunting task, but we kept going.”

Johnson also served as president of the Albion Merchants Association and was on the board of the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce.

Adam Johnson put this sign at 39 Problems in Albion, saying all businesses should be considered essential.

He organized classic car shows in downtown Albion, including a cruise-in where Main Street was closed to traffic.

The Johnsons also developed the Chuck Wagon food trailer that they took to special events.

“In early 2020, we were ever so slowly clawing our way forward financially,” Johnson said. “We were paying in a tremendous amount of money, week after week, because so many people loved us and were counting on us to make it. Our mission and our passion was larger than us. We wanted to be what saved Main Street, Albion. I don’t know why, I suppose it was that inner fire that drove us forward when we should have just walked away, so even still, we kept going.”

But the virus hit and the Gov. Andrew Cuomo imposed many restrictions to slow the spread of Covid-19. Bars and restaurants weren’t able to have customers inside after March 16. These restrictions were in place for about three months.

Johnson didn’t think it was fair that the “mom and pop” businesses on Main Street were closed while the state allowed the big box retailers to stay open. He coordinated a May 16 event where about 200 vehicles went on a 50-mile caravan to highlight small businesses in Orleans County. The trek went through four village downtown districts and eight towns. Johnson put a sign in the 39 Problems front window to “Re-Open NY – All Business Is Essential.”

When bars and restaurants could reopen, they were limited to operating at 50 percent capacity. The governor also repeatedly stressed that bars and restaurants who don’t adhere to social distancing or allow too many people inside could lose their liquor license or be forced to temporarily shut down.

The state promoted a hotline for people to call and report violators who aren’t adhering to social distancing, mask wearing and the capacity guidelines.

“Something went wrong this year, though, really wrong,” Johnson said in his post. “It wasn’t the virus, it was the leadership from Albany. I’m not an expert in political science and don’t want to be. I am a Veteran and swore a long time ago to uphold and defend the Constitution. We have freedoms that have been paid for in blood. That is something that I don’t take lightly. Our State Legislature gave essentially unlimited power to someone that has run wild with it. In the beginning, it made sense. It doesn’t anymore.”

Adam Johnson is in the lead car in a caravan on May 16 to highlight small businesses in Orleans County. The group is headed down Main Street in Albion.

Return to top