By LAURA SCHREIER, Hartford Business Journal Staff Writer
January 21, 2008
A sign claiming “Live Music in Our Lounge” has been draped in the window of 100 Trumbull St. for months, but the only sounds coming from the soon-to-be-opened Dulce restaurant is construction work.
That’s going to change in a month or so, according to the family that hopes to tap into what they say is a neglected downtown dining demographic.
Peter Guimaraes, a member of the family that owns and will operate the restaurant, said that despite a construction setback, he’s optimistic about getting the place finished in February.
Dulce is going to be, as he described it, “American cuisine with European influences,” and diners will have outdoor seating and the occasional jazz ensemble to listen to as they talk and eat.
Appetizers will cost between $5.95 and $9.95, lunches will begin at $10 and dinners will range between $17 and $32.
It’s a different scene than much of what downtown Hartford offers, he said. While the area is dotted with louder, more college-aged bars and clubs, the older-than-30 set looking for something classier doesn’t have a lot of options.
Maggie Gallagher of MG Real Estate, a restaurant specialist, said Guimaraes isn’t the first restaurateur to aim for that demographic.
Restaurant-goers already have places like Max Downtown or the newly opened Dish, but “people don’t want to eat at the same place seven nights a week,” she said.
“Over 30 is where downtown needs to be,” although the idea is more about attracting sophisticated business professionals, Gallagher said, whether they’re 25 or 55.
But Gallagher has seen restaurants with similar demographic aims die off. Global Gourmet and the Mezzanine, both in the converted G. Fox Building at 970 Main St., closed their doors fairly quickly. Gallagher cites one major killer for both: Neither place had a presence on the street, which is essential for walk-in traffic during the dinner hours.
Downtown has a number of available spaces that could be turned into restaurants, such as the vacant street level space at 55 on the Park, owned by developer David Nyberg. The space was specifically set aside for that purpose, but has remained vacant for several years.
The supply of downtown’s 1,500 residents comes up too short to interest national restaurateurs, Gallagher said.
Most national outfits aren’t willing to go into a slim market — so it falls to regional restaurateurs such as the Max Restaurant Group or the Hartford Restaurant Group, owners of the Wood ‘N Tap chain, Vaughn’s and Agave, Gallagher said.
And Guimaraes is among that small group of successful area restaurateurs, Gallagher said, with Bloomfield’s Blue Smoke restaurant. Guimaraes said Dulce is going to have extra perks that will hopefully make the place stand out, such as 65 available parking spaces in the attached garage and a Manhattan supper-club vibe.
Currently, Vito’s on the Park is the only restaurant in that section of downtown. Guimaraes said the addition of Dulce should help bring more hungry downtowners to that corner around dinnertime.