The sign announcing their arrival may have been up for a few weeks but Steve Kaye, owner of Ballou’s Wine Bar, shares that the lease for the 3,100-sqaure-foot restaurant was just signed less than a week ago.
Much anticipated, Ballou’s is tentatively scheduled to open mid-May at 2 Sybil Ave., where the most recently operated for the past several summers.
Right off the bat, Kaye shares that he and his wife Debbie will keep the restaurant open year-round where the former place was seasonal. Some other changes include an 11 p.m. closing time no matter what and no bar on the outside patio – servers will wait tables outdoors (see tentative hours of operation below).
What will be the same is a lot of the furniture and decor but not as you might think: Kaye has taken the “green” route and re-purposed most of the items from the former restaurant. The wood has been stained dark, booths have become bench-style seating and the bar will take on a deep mahogany finish. As for the storage of his more than 100 varieties of wine – Kaye is the process of hand-crafting racks and racks.
What will be new to the space is a more cozy atmosphere than the former beach-themed restaurant, more dining tables and a fireplace that will serve as a focal point in the main dining room. The outside patio will re-use the existing furniture and still welcomes about 100 guests.
Constantly looking to expand the first Ballou’s Wine Bar, which opened in Guilford in June, 2009, Kaye said he and his wife had been actively scouting locations for a second business for sometime. They had inquired about a space in North Haven that was taken and ended up finding the former Blue Cottage instead.
“Understanding the location, we felt it would be ideal for the concept of Ballou’s,” said Kaye of the new space. Just about 20 minutes up Route 146 from their spot on the Guilford Green, Kaye is hoping Ballou’s Wine Bar in Branford will attract the 83,000 people found in the town’s five-mile radius. “I think it will bring people who looked at Guilford as too far; those few exits to people make a difference,” he commented.
While there are plans to allow the Branford location to develop based upon the demographic and clientele, Kaye said the offerings will be pretty much the same as the Guilford spot, which is thriving and popular all year long. “Wine,” he furthers, “has expand over the past five years; people are much more educated and more comfortable with wine and we’re the place that they can come to learn more about wine.”
In addition to offering a variety of imported wine a well as local wines at the Branford spot, Ballou’s will add 15 beer taps to serve local and high-end brews, offering beer flights similar to their already popular wine flights. The menu of comfort foods like homemade pasta, pannis and fondue will also be the same as Guilford. Dessert lovers should also note that Debbie’s famed truffles will now be made in the leased space above the restaurant at 2 Sybil Ave.
During the summer months, there will be live music on the patio featuring a rotation of about 15 artists who currently perform at Ballou’s in Guilford; the genre is everything from jazz to pop. Indoors, Ballou’s will be a destination for women, book clubs and wine lectures, just as the Guilford spot is now.
“The biggest thing I want people to feel is that we are a casual European wine bar that this is a place to learn about wine and have fun,” said Kaye.
A long-term, 10-year lease has been signed for the space with two five-year options to re-new. The hope is to thrive and stay in Branford, said Kaye, and become a compliment to the nearby and . “We just want to be good neighbors,” he said, “and do the right thing.”
Ballou’s will begin hiring 35-50 staff members for the Branford location in the beginning to middle of April. Check Craigslist for application information.
Sun.-Tues. 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.
Weds-Thurs. 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Fri.-Sat. 11:30 a.m.- 11 p.m.