Up next: Elmer's Place (New Britain, CT)
A local favorite in New Britain, Elmer’s Place is a popular bar on the edge of the Central Connecticut State University campus that serves great food, cold drinks and offers an amazing atmosphere for friends and family.
I am writing to you to share the story of my family business, Elmer's Place and Great Oaks Restaurant in New Britain, CT. We are a CCSU institution and rite of passage for this community over the last 40 years. If you went to CCSU or grew up in the area, you’ve spent at least a few late nights at Elmer’s. Some backstory… my dad “Butch”, bought the business at 23 years old back in December 1980. I have been working with him for almost 15 years, though I really grew up here. My parents even met when my mom bartended for him over 30 years ago. My friends and I have been stoolies through and through since college (2006) and they all took turns behind the bar or in the kitchen here at Elmers. I have been a faithful ForePlay listener from the beginning, have supported PMT and watched hundreds of rundowns and one bite reviews over the past several years. I even played in the Barstool Classic at Foxwoods, finishing an impressive second to last. I have more than a dresser full of merch, and a golf bag full of the brand to show for it! At Elmer’s, we move a ton of Pink Whitney and Transfusions have become a favorite. As you can see, Barstool is a big part of my life, and I’m damn proud of that.
The past several years at Elmers have been some of our best. We’ve invested in expansion, expanded food delivery, built out a patio and the community has responded. Things have been good and the investments are starting to be recouped. As I take the reins of the business, I hope and push for us to be as much of a sports bar as the college bar we have been. We are not complacent and work hard every day to help our business grow stronger. Then COVID hit.
This last year has been a whirlwind for myself and my family, to put it mildly. We closed our doors in March due to the restrictions and were not able to open back up until June. We survived the summer months, getting by enough to continue to pay our employees, bills and rent, with some momentum before students returned. We spent thousands readying our staff, our building and our technology to deal meet and exceed the new restrictions. My father is pretty OCD intense when it comes to cleanliness, and our work exceeded his standards. We had zero cases or scares all summer long, but once campus opened, students started getting sick. Not in our establishment, but on campus. Regardless, the local news stations parked outside of our building and pointed the finger at us, and other gathering spots, as the source of the outbreaks. Publicly, the news stations, CCSU President, and even CT Governor Lamont blamed us for an on-campus outbreak, which was false. They news stations said they tried to contact us, which is a complete lie. I am a CCSU graduate, our family has been athletic sponsors for decades and we have been good citizens to the state and city of New Britain. It felt like an attack. Like they wanted us to fail. I even went on Fox 61 to defend us (thanks for the inspiration Pres), after they trashed us repeatedly. As you know, the truth doesn’t necessarily matter. The impression was already made. It still affected our business negatively for weeks, but we kept fighting. Then, just when we were starting to build our footing and customers' confidence back, CT put a 9:30pm restriction on indoor dining and required everyone to order meals with drinks. We are a college and local/late night bar. We do not open until 2pm. This was devastating. We pivoted and tried to open earlier, but could not build traffic, especially with few students on campus.
This year was supposed to be the 40th anniversary celebration for our family business. A time to look back and reflect and look forward with optimism. Instead, we find ourselves scratching and clawing to survive. My parents have drained their personal savings, not paying themselves at all and working 40-hour weeks when they should be retiring. We have continued to pay our employees and give up our own shifts to help them make money. For some perspective, one week of current sales barely comes close to a slow Friday night a year ago. Our hope is to make it through this winter and that springtime brings some relief. At this point, I honestly don't know. I am terrified that the four decades of my parents' sacrifices, and memories of great nights for so many will be coming to an end. Anything Barstool can do to help businesses, family and community gathering spots like ours, is incredibly appreciative.