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West Hartford Business Buzz: May 18, 2020

Park Tavern, 140 Park Rd., has closed permanently and is being transformed into Beachland Smoke. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

A round-up of openings, closings, and other news about West Hartford businesses. [Updated]

By Ronni Newton

I hope everyone had a chance to get outside and enjoy the beautiful weekend!

Happy 1st Birthday to Millie, pictured with one of her presents.

One of the celebrations we had this past week didn’t need to be canceled due to COVID-19. Happy 1st Birthday to Millie!

We are so happy to have gotten a puppy last summer! Millie has now calmed down enough to not demand constant attention or bark every time I am on the phone, and she no longer eats door mats and furniture when we take our eyes off her for a few moments, and despite her desire to pop into Zoom meetings at least once or twice a week, for the most part she is a complete joy. Both Ted and I enjoy taking occasional work breaks for a quick game of hedgehog bowling (two stuffed hedgehogs and a long path through our kitchen and family room), and at times like this especially, there is nothing like the comic relief and welcome distraction of a happy pup!

Quarantine means more people home and more walks, and minimal crate time, and lots of mooching when we have lunch and snacks. Millie had the happiest possible birthday on Tuesday!

This will be another very busy news week as many sectors of our economy begin to reopen. As the governor has said, however, these are “baby steps.”

The Town Council is holding a special meeting Monday night at 6 p.m., and will discuss the structure for the reopening initiation as well as hear the final plan for how restaurants and retailers will be able to expand their outdoor operations into public rights of way. Reopening is permitted beginning May 20 for outdoor dining at restaurants, as well as retail operations that have not previously been deemed essential, offices, and outdoor operations of zoos or museums. Hair salons and barbershops were also set to be permitted to reopen May 20, but early Monday afternoon Gov. Ned Lamont delayed that sector until June 1. Businesses that are planning to reopen must go through the state’s certification process to obtain their Reopen CT badge, and restaurants planning to open with outdoor dining must also obtain a permit through West Hartford.

West Hartford businesses: Let me know what your reopening plans are! Once you have your badge and have a reopening date, please send an email to [email protected]. Please don’t text or Facebook message; I want to be able to keep track of everything in one place. Please include your business name, address, website, and date of reopening. We will be updating the existing restaurant list and creating a separate list of other businesses.

Also happening this week is a Board of Education meeting (finalization of the budget which was reduced by the Town Council, and perhaps an announcement about graduation), and later this week there will also be information made available about the town’s summer camp programs.

Welcome to new intern Melanie Grados, who teamed up with Dexter McCann to write this important story about COVID-19 testing availability in West Hartford and the surrounding area. Look for plenty more from both interns this summer!

Please keep physically distancing, wear your masks if you are in public places, and stay safe and healthy.

If you have information about businesses changing their operations due to COVID-19, or doing something worth sharing, please provide that information in the comments or email Ronni Newton at [email protected].

Here’s this week’s Buzz:

  • It’s great to be able to lead this column with “normal-ish” business news, and I am excited to announce that Beachland Smoke plans to open sometime next month in the former Park Tavern space at 140 Park Rd. There’s no change in ownership, and Chip Kohn of Beachland Group said that the transformation had been something he had been thinking about for quite a while and it made sense to do it when on-premise dining was suspended anyway. The smoked food items Kohn has already introduced at his other restaurants (Rockledge Grille and Beachland Tavern) have been a hit, and has been looking to give it a greater focus. Kohn said he also plans to do a lot of catering, and anticipates that backyard barbecues will likely be popular this coming summer. The new concept should fill a great niche, Kohn said, since currently there are no other barbecue restaurants in town. Ultimately there will be indoor seating and a bar at Beachland Smoke, but even if that is not yet permitted when the restaurant opens (the goal is sometime in mid-June), patrons will be able to make use of the takeout window where meats and sides by the pound and growlers, as well as individual servings of smoked items like wings, brisket, turkey, and more, will be available.

    Rockledge Grill patio is being readied for reopening May 20. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • Kohn also provided an update about the other Beachland Group restaurants, which had all remained closed following the suspension of on-premise dining on March 16. Rockledge Grille reopened for takeout on Thursday (available 4-8 p.m.), with a limited menu of wings, tenders, sandwiches, and sliders, as well as beer and other beverages, that has been expanding a bit each day. The snack shack on the Rockledge Golf Club course has also reopened. Kohn said he plans to open the Rockledge Grille patio for outdoor dining on May 20. The expansive patio previously had seating for 72, and he said he is hoping the distancing guidelines will allow for 12-15 four-person tables. I stopped by to take some photos Sunday afternoon, and even though it may be a while before we can join our neighbors at “The Rock” (I live within an easy walking distance and this is our neighborhood hangout) I cannot wait to once again eat on this fantastic patio with the best view in West Hartford.

    Both Arethusa (at left) and Mecha Noodle Bar appear to have made a lot of progress toward opening in West Hartford Center. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • I mentioned last week that build-out was continuing on some of the businesses in the Center, and that’s clearly evident at Arethusa and Meçha Noodle Bar! I peeked inside Arethusa last Thursday, and although the  contractor at work wasn’t able to give me any opening details, the tile floor and counters are installed and it looks like it’s getting close to completion! Meçha’s door was locked (I tried), but since the last time I had been by the sign has been installed and other exterior updates have been made. I had spoken to the owner a few days before on-premise dining was suspended, and will get more information about both of these businesses as soon as possible.
  • The Lyons Service Phillips 66 station (2526 Albany Ave., northwest corner of Albany Avenue and North Main Street in Bishops Corner is raising funds for Foodshare. “For every gallon sold, we are donating 2 cents to Foodshare to help them with their efforts to feed our neighbors during these challenging times,” owner Chip Lyons said in an email. The donation will be made for gasoline and diesel fuel purchased seven days a week between the hours of 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Lyons Service also has a donation box for Foodshare at the Albany Avenue station as well as their Elmwood repair shop location at 1056 New Britain Ave.
  • This is both government and business news, but since it impacts business operations I am including it here. Congratulations to West Hartford’s Building Department on completing its 500th online building inspection last Wednesday. By Friday, according to an email from the town, there should have been 542 online inspections conducted. “While it takes on average two to three times longer to do a remote inspection compared to an on-site physical inspection, our five inspectors are getting it done. Remote inspections are being conducted by Tim, Fred, Mark, Silvana and Jeff – who was the inspector who completed number 500. The building inspection support team includes Daniel, Debi, Jennifer, and Lynn. The office switched to remote mode inspections on March 23 using FaceTime and other video conferencing platforms. The office also took in 1,078 new permit applications via standard U.S. mail during that same time period. While Town Hall continues to operate in a virtual manner, the Building Inspection office can be reached at 860-561-7530 or [email protected] or visit www.westhartfordct.gov/building. For general questions, call 860-561-6990.” For more information about the innovative remote inspection process developed by Supervisor of Inspections Tim Mikloiche, click here.

    Thomas J. Rechen partner with McCarter & English.

  • Congratulations to West Hartford resident Thomas Rechen, a partner at McCarter & English, who will be installed as president of the Hartford County Bar Assocation on May 19. “At a time of great anxiety for many attorneys, especially solo practitioners and those at small- and medium-sized law firms, incoming Hartford County Bar Association president Thomas Rechen said he plans on addressing head-on the uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic,” which is the No. 1 issue facing attorneys and the association today, Law.com states.
  • Some sad, but not unexpected news. The spring edition of the Taste of West Hartford, which had been rescheduled from April to June 14, has been canceled. The fall edition is still on, and scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 13. All tickets sold for the spring event will be honored in September, event organizer Tom Hickey said.

    Zaytoon’s Bistro’s owner and employees are preparing for outdoor dining May 20. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • The updated list of West Hartford restaurants open for takeout and/or delivery can be found here. As noted in the intro above, any restaurant that is planning to reopen for outdoor dining and has a confirmed date and Reopen CT badge, please email [email protected] and we will update the list accordingly. There is already a column in the existing table ready and waiting to be filled! Please don’t just comment below, or text, or Facebook message because we need to keep all of the information organized. The information should also come from someone associated directly with the business.
  • As noted in the intro, and as stated for restaurants above, we will attempt to put together a list of other businesses that are reopening in Phase 1. Retailers, hair salons, barbershops – please email [email protected] and we will add you to a list that will be published on We-Ha.com. Please don’t just comment below, or text, or Facebook message because we need to keep all of the information organized. The information should also come from someone associated directly with the business.
  • ICYMI, Westfarms has already announced plans to reopen on May 20, and will reserve the first hour of the day for mall walkers. Click here for details.
  • For information about available COVID-19 testing at urgent care centers and pharmacies in West Hartford and the surrounding area, click here.
  • Look for flowers blooming again in Bishops Corner! For information about how to assist in this effort, click here.

Remember, if you have any business news to share, add it in the comments section below or email Ronni Newton at [email protected].

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Rockledge Grille reopened for takeout on May 14. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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1 Comment

  • Health is the top priority for now. I felt sad for the big events which were postponed or canceled due to COVID. I know that everything will be back to normal. Send my birthday greetings to Millie.

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