By SEAN O'LEARY, Hartford Business Journal Staff Writer
March 17, 2008
Coach’s Sports Bar & Grille, a Hartford fixture for nearly 15 years, is just weeks away from closing its doors to make way for a Black Bear Saloon, according to a player in the deal.
“We have signed contracts and we’re very close to finalizing,” said Donald Kelly, a partner of Stamford-based Post Road Entertainment, which owns five Black Bear Saloons, three in Connecticut and two in New York.
“We’re going to be taking occupancy in late March or early April,” he said, adding that his group had already applied for a new liquor license. “It’s going to take some time to go through the proper channels in Hartford to start the renovation process, but we’re planning to spend a decent amount of money.”
Managers at Coach’s declined to comment on the planned changes at the 187 Allyn St. site.
Coach’s opened with fanfare in 1993 under an ownership group that included University of Connecticut basketball coach Jim Calhoun. Facing financial pressures, that group, made up of Calhoun, Michael Guinan, Michael Moreau and Apostol Laske, sold Coach’s in 2006 to 22 Nightlife, an entertainment and promotion company that has about a dozen clubs across the state.
The new owners have kept the established name and many of its original features. Officials at 22 Nightlife did not return telephone messages.
As soon as Post Road Entertainment takes over the space, Coach’s will be closed for a few months for renovations. Kelly estimated that the opening would come in late June or July.
“We want to have it up and running before football season and for the last half of the baseball season because it’s still going to be a sports bar,” he said.
Black Bear Saloon already operates two restaurant/bars in New York and others in New Haven, Norwalk and Stamford. Kelly and his partners at Post Road Entertainment, Albert Silverman and Todd Kosakowski, also operate the Thirsty Turtle and Hula Hanks chains.
Plans For Expansion
The Black Bear Saloon chain has a wilderness motif in the restaurant and serves lunch and dinner. The location in Norwalk advertises that it has 23 televisions, three projection screens and a DirecTV package for sports as well as live weekened entertainment.
The latest deal for Coach’s came about because Kelly knew original founder Moreau and the current owners from New Haven. When Kelly and his partners began looking at sites in Hartford, he met with 22 Nightlife partners, who said they were willing to sell.
“We had looked all over, looked at Pratt Street, but focused on Coach’s once we knew it was an option,” Kelly said.
“We are impressed with what Hartford has been doing and we hope to capitalize on the convention center and maybe a new arena,” said Kelly, a member of the Connecticut Restaurant Association’s board of directors.
He said it has been Post Road Entertainment’s pattern to open more than one venue in a city. “We have more than one concept in just about every place we’ve been, and I definitely think it’s possible that we could expand in Hartford,” he said.