Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

May 20, 2020

Wood-n-Tap gradually reopening curbside, outdoor dining services

Outdoor dining area at the Wood-n-Tap restaurant in Newington, 3375 Berlin Turnpike. Photo | Hartford Restaurant Group Outdoor dining area at the Wood-n-Tap restaurant in Newington, 3375 Berlin Turnpike.

Hartford's Wood-n-Tap Bar & Grill on Sisson Avenue is not reopening this week, but the restaurant chain recently rebooted most of its Central Connecticut locations.

Phil Barnett, co-owner/founder of Wood-n-Tap parent Hartford Restaurant Group (HRG), in an interview said the American casual pub reopened last week for curbside-only sales in Farmington, Newington, Rocky Hill and Southington just days before the state on Wednesday starts the first phase of its economic reopening amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

On Wednesday, additional sites in Hamden, Wallingford and Vernon are reopening for curbside takeout sales.

HRG’s gradual reopening comes after the company in mid-March decided to temporarily suspend operations at its nine Wood-n-Tap locations and Que Whiskey Kitchen in Southington amid state bans on dine-in services at bars and restaurants.

Wood-n-Tap restaurants in Farmington and Newington, he said, are cautiously beginning outdoor dining service on Wednesday in tent and patio seating areas approved by each town’s government. Meantime, the Orange location remains temporarily closed. HRG is also planning to push back by several months the debut of its new Wood-n-Tap grill in Enfield to mid-summer.

HRG’s strategy for serving guests outside in Farmington and Newington is to seat them at least 6 feet apart in existing patio areas and parking lots equipped with white tents harnessed down by cement blocks.

Barnett says Wood-n-Tap restaurants in Rocky Hill and Southington are likely the next HRG businesses to open before Memorial Daty outside with tents and patio seating after towns approve those plans.

“Execution is key to make it all worthwhile,” said Barnett, adding that he holds daily so-called “State of the Union” meetings with staff.

Photo | Hartford Restaurant Group
Wood-n-Tap restaurant in Newington has reopened for curbside and outdoor dining service.

Barnett, who operates HRG alongside co-founder and longtime friend Mike Hamlin, said his team has spent recent weeks adjusting many Wood-n-Tap jobs to manage a heavy reliance on carryout and outdoor dining services.

For example, a private event specialist is now the patio deployment/executive specialist focused on monitoring social distancing; and a beverage director is reassigned as the sanitation specialist. 

HRG is also initially increasing the use of disposable cutlery and menus, and is offering to-go containers instead of plates. Its use of disposable products will be driven by what patrons are comfortable with using, he said.

The restaurant group, which was a $32-million business with about 700 employees prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, has also revamped its company-wide training program and made significant strides in launching an online ordering platform and mobile app, which have been in development for about two years. The web-based ordering platform and app, both offering patrons touchless payment options, will debut by mid-June, Barnett said.

Barnett, also the secretary of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, said he’s taken just three personal days since the state banned all dine-in services at bars and restaurants on March 16.

“There’s been no pity party,” he said. “All I can do right now is control what I can control, work hard and get these businesses up and running again.”

Sign up for Enews


Order a PDF