After COVID, restaurant owner ‘confident’ in intention to move note from Bethel to Brookfield


BROOKFIELD – This may be the third time Tony Heslin will open a location in Fairfield County – but a planned expansion to Brookfield represents a first for the local restaurant owner.

“It’s completely new to me because we’re building it from the ground up,” Heslin said. “It’s literally four walls and a roof.”

At its two Bethel restaurants, Note Kitchen & Bar, which opened in 2016, and Notch8 Wood Fired Bar & Grill, which opened in January 2020, Heslin has moved into pre-existing dining spaces.

For his new space in the Brookfield Village development, Heslin is working with an architect and engineer to build the space, including his kitchen and a full bar. It hopes to submit plans for planning permission by the end of the month and would open in August – more likely this autumn.

“Until you do, you don’t really know. It’s just a lot more intensive because you plan things like the electrical seam and the plumbing,” he added. “Equipment sourcing could also be difficult, with all the supply chain issues.”

Whatever unforeseen setbacks might delay the opening, they don’t necessarily concern Heslin. No challenge he encounters can compare to those he and his team faced when he opened Notch8 in the weeks before state businesses were shut down in March 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When he first hit, it was pretty scary,” Heslin recalled. “We had just built the place and obviously spent a lot of money and all of a sudden you find your whole source of income is almost shut down.”

Quickly shifting to a delivery and takeout model, Heslin closed Note entirely and combined the two restaurants into the significantly larger Notch8 space. He laid off about 75% of his staff and started personally taking and fulfilling customer orders over the phone, their website or with a food delivery app like GrubHub.

“It was a terrible way to live, mentally it was grueling,” Heslin said. “But we learned a lot and we understood a lot of things.”

Outdoor patio seating at both locations helped bring staff back as a business over the next year and half fluctuated with the rise and fall in the number of COVID-19 cases.

By the end of last year, about 80,000 restaurants had temporarily or permanently closed amid the pandemic, according to estimates by the National Restaurant Association.

For Heslin, whose only restaurant experience before Note opened came as an army officer for a dining hall in Seoul, South Korea, the stressed business environment offered strength. and a new perspective to its expansion plans.

“We were facing probably one of the toughest situations you could ever encounter,” Heslin added. “To come out stronger, it just gives you confidence that whatever happens to us, we can handle it – you don’t sweat the small stuff like before.”

Once the new Brookfield location is complete, Heslin said plans are underway to move Note’s operations there, with its existing space in Bethel adapted to a new concept including an upscale breakfast cafe. and lunch and also serving as an event space for things like baby showers, class reunions and banquets for high school sports teams.

“The bill is really small and the kitchen is tiny so that’s the kind of thing we can plan better instead of trying to cook meals for 100 people in one night we can do more of a buffet sort of thing, this kind of thing where we know how many people are coming and we can manage it a little better, ”he explained.

The move will bring an expanded menu to a “gastropub” atmosphere in Brookfield where, Heslin said, “the product isn’t just the food, it’s the atmosphere and the service — the show, if you will. ” The space will have outdoor seating and a full bar and will host live music with “a bit of everything – we’ll do country, we’ll do jazz and things like that too plus rock, pop , blues and mainstream stuff”.

“We try not to take ourselves too seriously – do a good job but don’t be too formal or fancy and I think people appreciate that,” Heslin said. “Our customers become our friends.”


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