Chris Ryan '86 made his acting debut on the small screen this October when his Troy, New York establishment, Ryan's Wake Public House, served as a filming location for a PBS special.

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Chris Ryan ’86 Plays Bootlegger in PBS Prohibition Film

Lessons Learned at Wagner Translate to Successful Community Business

TROY, NY (Oct. 7, 2011) — Chris Ryan ’86 made his acting debut on the small screen this October when his Troy, New York establishment, Ryan’s Wake Public House, served as a filming location for a PBS special.

River Street Riot!Ryan plays a mouthy bootlegger in “William Kennedy’s Prohibition Story,” a 30-minute documentary about the life and times of infamous East Coast gangster Jack “Legs” Diamond. The movie is airing statewide and beyond on PBS affiliate stations this winter.

Though it’s not every day that film crews set up shop there, Ryan’s riverfront bar in Troy’s entertainment district is a popular hangout where politicians, business leaders and artists mingle and make things happen in their community. Ryan’s Wake and its authentic turn-of-the century decor is a frequent winner in the “Best Bar” category, selected annually by Capital Region media.

“A true pub is more than a bar,” Ryan said. “It’s a community space, a ‘Third Place,’ 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.”

As a business major at Wagner, Ryan supported himself by working as the Student Union Operations Manager and as manger/bartender at The Hawk’s Nest, a student pub. After college he worked for two years as a staff member, with a focus on economic development, for former Staten Island Borough President Ralph J. Lamberti.

“Working for Ralph gave me a great opportunity to participate in city government and appreciate how it affects the business community and most aspects of our lives.”

But as a native of Utica, Ryan was eager to return upstate to put his experience in business, economic development and hospitality to use.

In the early 1990s, Ryan accepted a management position at Brown’s Brewing Co., a locally owned upstart brewery and restaurant that has since become an anchor in Troy’s bustling waterfront entertainment district. While at Brown’s, Ryan helped establish Revolution Hall, a state-of-the-art performance space adjacent to and owned by the brewery. In 2005, the Wagner graduate opened Ryan’s Wake Public House on the same block.

These initiatives were major steps toward the urban revitalization of this small but up-and-coming Hudson River city, which is quickly becoming an attractive place for young professionals, artists and entrepreneurs to live, work and play.

Does Ryan plan to launch a new career as an actor? Probably not. But Troy has been the setting for several major motion pictures in recent years, including “Ironweed,””The Age of Innocence” and “The Time Machine.”

“That’s why they call this place ‘Hollywood on the Hudson,'” Ryan said of his adopted city.

To catch Ryan’s performance in “William Kennedy’s Prohibition Story,” check the schedule of your local PBS station or purchase a DVD at For information about Ryan’s Wake Public House, visit:


The name “Ryan’s Wake” is a nod to the Ryan family funeral business and to the tradition of celebrating life at an Irish wake. It is also a playful reference to the wakes created by passing boats on the nearby Hudson River.


For high resolution movie stills and a clip from William Kennedy’s Prohibition Story,” filmed at Ryan’s Wake Public House, visit:


Media coverage resulting from this press release:

This pitch was picked up by the Wagner College Magazine.