Plan B Burger Bars To Open in Stamford, Springfield and Washington D.C.
By JANICE PODSADA
May 24, 2012
If Al Gamble hadn't needed a job when he was an accounting student at the University of Connecticut, a lot of people would have never tasted green fries, the Squeeler a half-pork, half beef burger or hoisted a glass of Delerium Tremens, a Belgian golden ale.
"I was going to be an accountant," said Gamble, co-owner of four Plan B Burger Bars in Greater Hartford.
Gamble said Thursday his company will open two new Plan B restaurants this summer, one in Stamford and the other next to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. And he's in talks for two locations in Washington DC.
"The Basketball Hall of Fame contacted me and said it had a space available. Someone there was familiar with the Glastonbury Plan B," said Gamble chief executive of Locals Eight Restaurant Group, which operates Plan B restaurants. Gamble co-founded Locals Eight with Shawn Skehan, the company's president.
The Stamford store is expected to open in July and employ 60 to 70 people, including 20 to 25 full-time workers, about the same size as the current locations in West Hartford, Simsbury, Glastonbury and Milford.
The Springfield location will open sometime in August and will employ 50 to 60 people, Gamble said.
The privately-owned company is financing its projects through a combination of conventional lending and self-lending, Gamble said.
Locals Eight, based in Hartford, also owns the Half Door European Beer Bar and Tisane Tea & Coffee Bar, both in Hartford's West End. The firm has been named one of the 500 fastest growing U.S. companies by Inc. magazine in 2009 and 2010, Gamble said.
The first Plan B restaurant opened in West Hartford in 2006. The "B" stands for beef, burgers, beer and bourbon, Gamble said.
The establishments serve upscale burgers, and American and craft beers in a casual environment and green fries "flash fried green beans with kosher salt on them it's one of my inventions," said Gamble who grew up on a poultry farm in Brooklyn, Conn.
"I love green beans. When I was in high school I used to help this elderly lady pick her garden. She'd send me home with a couple dollars and a bag of green beans," he said.
In addition to Stamford and Springfield, Locals Eight is in talks with property owners to open two more locations in the Washington DC area "Baltimore and Bethesda" in 2013, Gamble said.
Gamble, 45, said the company hopes to make Plan B a household name and open restaurants in Boston, Chicago and Atlanta.
"We're trying to work take the brand national," Gamble said.
That's a far cry from his salad days as a Uconn student, working at a college bar owned by Hartford-area restaurateur Thomas Altmann.
Gamble's work ethic and ability to increase profits drew the boss's attention, he said. Altmann made Gamble manager and eventually invited him to be a partner in the business.
As part of the deal, "I had to drop the number the classes I was taking," he said.
Gamble never did earn an accounting degree from Uconn, but he and Altmann went on to open the Roo Bar in Hartford's West end, and the Pig's Eye Pub downtown Hartford with two other partners.
Altmann's and Gamble's partnership lasted until 1998, when Altmann purchased Hot Tomato's restaurant in Hartford. Altmann died in 2005.
Instead, he and Skehan formed Locals Eight and launched Plan B in 2006
The company's offices are located at the corner of Farmington and Sisson avenues in Hartford and occupy the second floor of the building that once housed the Roo Bar, which closed in 2003 after the lease expired, said Gamble.
Neighbors have reported seeing activity at the former Roo Bar, but Gamble said the company does not have any immediate plans to open a new restaurant there.
"We have a catering trailer that comes and goes, and when we take delivery of our furniture for our new restaurants we store it there," Gamble said.
"We're constantly discussing what more we can do with the site we've thought about a catering center, a training center but right now our main focus is getting these new locations open.
"We have a lot on our plate."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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