CRA News

Come here first for all the important news facing the restaurant industry in Connecticut.  Click the RSS button to subscribe to the CRA News blog. 
<< First  < Prev   1   2   3   4   5   ...   Next >  Last >> 
  • 13 Oct 2015 1:33 PM | Anonymous

    Full Story

    You can get three-course meal for $20.15 during Connecticut Restaurant week

    Starting today, more than 75 restaurants will offer three-course meals off a set menu for the price of $20.15 as part of Connecticut Restaurant Week.

    “It not only brings in business, but also brings in new customers,” said Barry DePaolo, owner of Anthony Jack’s Wood Fired Grill on Center Street in Southington. “It gets you out there.”

    This year Anthony Jack’s will be offering a baked fettuccine and prosciutto, peas, and alfredo cream sauce appetizer. For dinner, guests can have wood-grilled London broil with an arugula tomato salad and crispy parmesan potatoes.

    Other restaurants will also offer appetizer, dinner and desert options as part of the event.

    Restaurants that participate are part of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, which started the event nearly seven years ago. It runs from Oct. 12 through Oct. 18.

    Restaurant Week was prompted by the 2008 recession, said Nicole Griffin, the association’s executive director.

    Griffin said it was a way to “get people out to restaurants” by offering deals and incentives.

    Local restaurants participating are 50 West Bistro in Plainville, Anthony Jack’s Wood Fired Grill in Southington, Geno’s Grille in Southington, J. Timothy’s in Plainville, and Wood-n-Tap in Southington.

    “We look forward to restaurant week,” said Niels Van Galen, executive director of 50 West Bistro on 50 W. Main St. in Plainville. “In the past we’ve done really well. It has really helped our restaurant bring some people in … to try us out.”

    Van Galen said the restaurant recently started a fall menu with heartier food.

    “I like to try to keep the menus as seasonal as possible and as local as possible,” Van Galen said.

    For an appetizer, the restaurant will offer homemade sweet potato gnocchi, with sage brown butter, crispy lardons, and shaved parmesan. For a main course, one of the three options is a roasted chicken leg stuffed with rosemary, pancetta and cheddar, with Yukon Gold whipped potatoes, kale chips, and confit red radish. For dessert there are two options including a chocolate mousse and vanilla crème brulee.

    For DePaolo at Anthony Jack’s, a few non-traditional menu items will be featured

    “We certainly want to showcase our restaurant and show what we can do that’s off the menu as far as different items,” said DePaolo.

    For more information about menus and participating restaurants, visit

  • 13 Oct 2015 1:29 PM | Anonymous
    Full Story:

    Connecticut restaurant week begins today

    Connecticut Restaurant week is back.

    The 2015 version kicked off on Monday and lasts through Oct. 18.

    Participating restaurants from across Connecticut said they're offering special deals including multi-course meals for either $20.15 or $30.15.

    Many of the items available will be off of a price-fixed menu, but will take a percentage off of a patron's check.

    "Restaurant Week provides diners with a unique opportunity to go out and enjoy a great meal at a great price." said Nicole Griffin, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association. "Restaurants from across Connecticut are participating in this year's event."

    Restaurant goers were urged to book their tables early.

    For a list of all the participating restaurants, click here

    Read more:

  • 06 Oct 2015 10:11 AM | Anonymous

    Full Article!

    Connecticut Restaurant Week, sponsored by the Connecticut Restaurant Association, runs Oct. 12 to 18 with special menus and deals at eateries throughout the state. Participating CRA member restaurants will offer promotions for $20.15 or $30.15, including prix-fixe meals, two-for-one options or specially priced wines.

    Menus are still being posted, but early entries include a fall-inspired $20.15 three-course menu at Newington's Rooster Company, with entree choices of apple bourbon-brined pork chop, half-roasted chicken with polenta and sweet potato and miso-glazed swordfish with spaghetti squash and brussels sprouts. Millwright's in Simsbury also offers a $20.15 prix-fixe in its tavern, with choice of burger, fish tacos or dumplings for a main dish and a zucchini cake with caramel popcorn and blueberry creme fraiche ice cream or hazelnut florentine "cannoli" for dessert.

    Information and menus:

  • 22 May 2015 11:09 AM | Anonymous

    A New Haven high school teacher recently won the James H. Maynard Excellence in Education Award from Golden Corral Restaurant, according to a press release from the Connecticut Restaurant Association’s publicist.

    Nathaniel Bradshaw, a ProStart educator at Wilbur Cross, was one of two educators from across the country awarded a $5,000 scholarship from the company, according to the release.

    One of the largest industry-supported career technical education programs in the nation, ProStart unites industry and secondary school classrooms to train students with the skills that help them achieve long-term, rewarding careers in the restaurant and food service industry, the release states.

    Bradshaw was instrumental in bringing the ProStart program to Cross three years ago, according to the release, and has represented Connecticut at the National ProStart Invitational with his students for the past two years. In April, Cross students competed in Anaheim, California.

    On Monday, Bradshaw represented the ProStart program at the International Food Manufacturers Association Gold & Silver Plate Celebration in Chicago during the National Restaurant Association Show, the release states.

    Judy Irwin, senior vice president of Human Resources & Training at Golden Corral, noted in the release Bradshaw’s dedication to his students and the countless hours he has spent creating summer and after-school programs.

  • 20 Apr 2015 2:18 PM | Anonymous

    Neycha Santiago never thought she would be traveling to Disneyland to compete in a national culinary competition, much less be making plans to attend The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in a few months.

    “I’m proud of myself and grateful to ProStart,” she says. This is Santiago’s second year competing on the Wilbur Cross High School culinary team from Connecticut. Last year she describes herself as “shy and nervous,” but now as the team’s captain she is just excited to show the judges her skills.

    Santiago explains that her mom taught her to cook, but her real culinary journey started in her high school culinary classes.

    “My teacher, Mr. Bradshaw, taught me everything I know. He helped me get into the CIA and gave me the confidence to be here as captain,” she says.

    Santiago will pursue an associate degree in baking and pastry when she joins the CIA in the fall, and hopes to be a pastry chef at a top restaurant and then open her own bakery someday. “I like showing my creativity through my desserts,” she says. “I don’t think a meal is complete without something sweet at the end.”

    ProStart helped Santiago not only with her culinary skills, but in all her classes. She says that the program taught her time management, teamwork and cooperation, which helped her with her college application.

    “I didn’t think I would be able to go to college, but now I can because of ProStart,” she says. Santiago will be the first in her family to attend post-secondary school, and says that without the scholarships and help from her instructor she wouldn’t be making the move to Hyde Park, N. Y., in the fall.

    The Wilbur Cross team is using produce and meat local to Connecticut and the New England area for their menu. Their plates will include a seafood cake appetizer, lamb chop entrée and a chocolate mousse dessert. “It’s so important to have local ingredients,” Santiago says.

    The team has adapted their menu and competition plan based on feedback during their state competition. Santiago says her team has worked so hard for this and she can’t wait to show the judges “what I’m about.”

  • 25 Mar 2015 11:39 AM | Anonymous

    The following comes from the office of State Rep. David Rutigliano:

    New Haven — Julienne, Paysanne, Chiffonade: These are some of the knife cuts that Connecticut high school students had to demonstrate at the 2015, Connecticut Pro Start Invitational, Feb 27 at Gateway Community College.

    Culinary students from Wilbur Cross High School, and New Britain High School competed against one another in a wide array of cooking and kitchen tasks for trophies and accolades from local chefs.

    Dozens of audience members attended the event to cheer on the students, learn about culinary arts, and to witness Wilbur Cross winning the competition for the second straight year.

    Rep. Dave Rutigliano (R-123), Nicole Lee from Fresh Point wholesale produce company, and Tony Merchitto from Temple Grill, joined Gateway College Chefs to judge the competition.

    “I’m proud of these kids. They’ve worked hard to get here. Learning these skills, and working in a kitchen can open a lot of doorways for them,” said Rep. Rutigliano.

    The students were judged in categories ranging from knife skills to the production of three course meals, to clean-up and overall management.

    Lee repeatedly pointed out to the students’ the important of sanitizing their cutting boards and preparation areas. “I’m going to keep bringing up how important it is for you to not cross contaminate,” she told the students.

    New Britain’s meal menu included crostini with prosciutto, apricot jam and goat cheese; chicken with mustard sauce; sinful side sweet potato hash; steamed green beans with garlic; tropical ice cream parfait.

    The Wilbur Cross menu included, classic New England seafood cake; rosemary garlic lamb; rich chocolate mousse.

    Last year over $100,000 in scholarships were awarded at the Connecticut Pro Start Student Invitational. The Connecticut Restaurant Association & the Connecticut Hospitality Educational Foundation sponsored this year’s competition.

    “It’s an excellent way for the teams to showcase all their hard work and everything they have learned. The culinary world is full of talented students,” said Nicole Griffin, Executive Director of The Connecticut Restaurant Association.

    Rep. Rutigliano is currently on the board of the Connecticut Hospitality and Education Foundation.

    “My first job was in a kitchen, washing dishes,” he said. “Fortunately I was given a chance to learn cooking skills, like these kids. I hope that these kids keep up the good work and continue practicing their skills. There are always cooking jobs available,” he said.

    The Wilbur Cross team will travel to Disneyland in California to compete in the National ProStart Invitational April 18-21, 2015. 

  • 11 Mar 2015 3:12 PM | Anonymous

    It was a frigid early morning Feb. 27, but the “heat” was on, and one could hear a pin drop as the nervous but excited competitors at the Connecticut Restaurant Association-sponsored ProStart Invitational were setting up their “kitchens” in the community room at Gateway Community College in New Haven. The competition showcased the passion and dedication high school students have for the restaurant and food service business.

    ProStart, a nationwide career-building program for high school students who are interested in culinary arts as well as restaurant and food service management, is an exciting 2-year program where students study in the classroom, participate in mentored work experiences and test their skills in local and national competitions. Most importantly, ProStart students grow into the leaders the restaurant industry needs.

    New Britain High School, and defending state champions Wilbur Cross High School of New Haven, participated in the Culinary Competition, which judged the students in different categories ranging from knife skills, sanitation and safety, to the production of a three-course meal and clean-up.

    Wilbur Cross and Hillhouse High Schools of New Haven competed in the Management Competition, in which teams must come up with their own restaurant concept, menu development, restaurant design, staff organization and marketing techniques.

    “It’s an excellent way for the teams to showcase all their hard work and everything they have learned. The culinary world is full of talented students,” said Nicole Griffin, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association. “Restaurants are a major industry, and we are lucky to have so many incredible restaurants in Connecticut. It all starts here, with our students learning the necessary critical skills required to enter the restaurant business and workforce,” she added.

    Wilbur Cross High School won both the culinary and management competitions and will advance to the prestigious National ProStart Invitational, the country’s premier high school competition focused on restaurant management and culinary arts, April 18-20 in Anaheim, California.

    It was impressive watching how the Wilbur Cross culinary team prepared its classic New England seafood cake, rosemary garlic lamb and rich chocolate mousse; and the New Britain High School team’s crostini with prosciutto, apricot jam and goat cheese; chicken with mustard sauce and tropical ice cream parfait, using only two butane burners with no access to running water or electricity. What a great experience for these future chefs.

    Sponsors of the competition included Gateway Community College, Subway, Falvey Linen, Max Restaurant Group, Wood-n-Tap, Fresh Point, Siegel, O’Connor, O’Donnell & Beck, Joey Garlic’s, J. Timothy’s, Oyster Club, Union League Cafe, Connecticut Distributors, Performance Food Group and Ecolab.


    The Taste of Home Cooking School: 5-7 p.m. exhibitor showcase 7 p.m. cooking school demonstration, March 12, Webster Bank Arena, 600 Main St., Bridgeport, $15 general admission and $35 VIP. The interactive event will feature live recipe and product demonstrations, where home cooks can sample food, receive gift bags and win door prizes. Taste of Home culinary specialist Amanda Wilson, a professionally trained chef, will share her best cooking tips and tricks with step-by-step demonstrations of several seasonal recipes created by home cooks across the country. The Taste of Home Cooking School is America’s largest live cooking program, inspiring more than 250,000 home cooks each year at more than 250 locations nationwide. More at

    Umpteenth Annual Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner: 6 p.m. March 14, North Guilford Congregational Church, 159 Ledge Hill Road, Guilford, $15 and $5 for children under 10, 203-457-0581 or 203-453-6812. Family-style meal includes potatoes, carrots, rolls and dessert. Homemade mac and cheese available for vegetarians and children.


    What restaurant recipes or other recipes would you like to have? What food products are you having difficulty finding? What cooking questions do you have? Send them to me at the contact info below.

    Contact Stephen Fries, professor and coordinator of the Hospitality Management Programs at Gateway Community College, at or Dept. FC, Gateway Community College, 20 Church St., New Haven 06510. Include your full name, address and phone number. Due to volume, I might not be able to publish every request. For more, go to

  • 06 Mar 2015 11:25 AM | Anonymous

    A ctivists speaking for about 34,000 waiters, waitresses and bartenders in Connecticut say it's time to stop having a two­tiered minimum wage, for tipped workers and for everyone else. "The women who put food on your tables can't afford to put food on their own tables!" thundered Saru Jayaraman, a New York­based activist speaking at a Thursday press conference called by activists. Jayaraman founded Restaurant Opportunities Centers in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and ROC United now has chapters around the country. She said some people think waiters and waitresses make good money, but that's because they're thinking about pricey white­tablecloth restaurants. According to a book put together by the activists' coalition, tipped workers are twice as likely to rely on food stamps as the rest of the work force. The Everybody Benefits Coalition, a constellation of liberal groups and unions that united to get paid sick leave in Connecticut has a new agenda they're calling the Women's Economic Agenda, and eliminating the lower minimum wage for tipped workers is first on the list. The Connecticut Restaurant Association, a lobbying organization that represents more than 600 restaurants, opposes the bill. Nicole Griffin testified before the legislature's Labor Committee Thursday evening that no waiter or bartender makes less than the minimum wage, because if the tips don't add up to the minimum wage when added to the $5.78 base pay, the employer makes up the difference. According to a think tank that opposes increases to the minimum wage, the average pay for Connecticut servers, including wages, is $14.04 an hour. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, the median wage, including tips, for servers in the state was $9.16 an hour. At the time, the standard minimum wage was $8.25. That wage was even lower than fast­food workers, whose mid­point in pay was $9.36 that year. New York just raised its tipped workers' minimum wage from $5 to $7.50 an hour, and Nevada, Wisconsin, Montana and all three West Coast states pay the same minimum wage for all workers. Griffin said a $3.82 raise for tipped workers would cost restaurants almost $5 when Social Security taxes, unemployment insurance are factored in. "That's a big cost," she said. A Deloitte study of table­service restaurants found profit margins tend to be between 2 and 3 percent. Griffin, who said she expects the bill to pass the committee, but did not predict its chances in the wider legislature, said she expects restaurants to either raise their prices or add a service charge, and take some of that money to payCopyright © 2015, Hartford Courant the higher wages. Taki Tanaka, general manager of West Hartford's Umi Sushi and Tapas, supports the bill, as his restaurant already pays all workers the minimum wage and then pools tips. Tanaka said the great gap between line cooks' pay – typically $60 or $72 a shift before the new system – and the servers caused resentment in the restaurant. The servers often earned $150 on weeknights and $250 on weekends, he said. When he first made the change, all but one of the dozen servers quit. But now, everyone works as a team, with servers retaining enough tips to make $20 an hour, and with kitchen staff getting enough tips to earn $15 an hour. Peter Tercyak, co­chairman of the Labor Committee, attended the activists' press conference before presiding over the public hearing. "This has been very informative as well as very moving," he said. "This is an important fight." The committee took up many bills in the Women's Economic Agenda, and one that's also popular among restaurant and retail workers is the Fair Schedules Act. San Francisco is the first place to pass an ordinance requiring employers to plan schedules in advance, and to make partial payments to workers who are sent home early because business is slow. The restaurant lobby also opposes the Connecticut bill, which has none of the exceptions that the San Francisco law contained for bad weather, employee­initiated shift changes or a last­minute need to fill in for a sick worker. Griffin said her trade group would oppose the bill even if it had exemptions. She said if it passes, restaurants will be less likely to open or expand here. The number of restaurant and hotel jobs added in Connecticut in 2014 – more than 6,000 – was by far the fastest growth rate of any sector. 

  • 05 Mar 2015 2:56 PM | Anonymous
    Testimony Before the Labor & Public Employees Committee
    March 5, 2015


    The Connecticut Restaurant Association represents over 600 restaurants and affiliated businesses across the state. Our members range from quick serve to casual to fine dining establishments. The Connecticut hospitality industry employs an estimated 145,000 people, making up 9% of our states’ workforce. Restaurants are a driving force in the state’s economy and generate tremendous tax revenue.
    The CRA opposes SB 858, AAC Employees Who Customarily and Regularly Receive Gratuities and the Minimum Fair Wage.
    Congress has for decades defined “wages” under Section 2013(m) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to include not just cash, but certain other credits and benefits that employees receive as a result of their employment, including tip income. Tip-earning employees can be among the industry’s higher-earning employees, earning a median of $12 to $17 an hour in tips, according to recent National Restaurant Association research. Employees and employers pay taxes on those tipped wages. That’s why section 203(m) of the FSLA lets employers apply a limited portion of the tip earnings employees receive because of their employment towards the employer’s obligation to pay tipped employees the minimum wage. This is called taking a “tip credit.” Employers may take a tip credit only under strict conditions.

    Connecticut law currently permits employers to pay a tipped employee a minimum cash wage of at least $5.78 an hour and take a tip credit of up to $3.37 an hour (i.e., the difference between the $9.15 minimum wage and the $5.78 cash wage.) If an employee’s tips fall below the maximum possible tip credit- $3.37 an hour under state law- the employer is responsible for making up the difference by paying any additional cash wages needed to bring the employee up to the required minimum wage. Thus, a tipped employee will never be paid below the minimum wage.

    Connecticut currently has one of the highest minimum and tipped wages in the country. Eliminating the tip credit forces restaurant operators to increase the cash wage to certain employees while at the same time virtually guaranteeing no wage increase for others.


    Myth #1: Tipped Employees are Paid a “Subminimum Wage” of $5.78 an Hour.
    FACT: There is no subminimum wage. The minimum wage for tipped employees is the exact same as the minimum wage for every other employee in Connecticut: $9.15. The employer must ensure that the tipped employee earns at least $9.15 an hour, between the employee’s tip earnings and the employer-paid cash wage. It is not legal for any employee to earn only $5.78 per hour.

    Myth #2: Customers are Subsidizing Restaurant Employees’ Wages.
    Fact: Restaurant employers invest in their businesses to provide the conditions that enable employees to earn tips. The tip credit system was created and its safeguards put in place decades ago because lawmakers recognized that tipped employees receive tips due to the jobs their employers provide for them. Tipped employees receive additional wages in the form of tips given to them by their employers’ guests. This money is NOT given to other employees. That’s why the law treats tipped and non-tipped employees differently for wage purposes.

    Myth #3: Tipped Employees Earn Poverty-Level Wages.
    Fact: Most tipped employees are far from minimum-wage earners. Server positions in restaurants provide opportunity, flexibility and, often, very competitive pay. Recent National Restaurant Association research shows that on a national level, restaurant servers earn a median hourly wage of between $16 and $22, counting both tips and employer-paid cash wages. Looking at tip income alone, entry-level servers earn a median of $12 an hour in tips, with more experienced servers earning a median of $17 an hour in tips, according to the research. NOTE: These figures represent overall averages; the hourly earnings of servers vary significantly based on the type of establishment and the average per-person check size.

    Myth #4: Employers Abuse Wage-And-Hour Rules When They Pay Tipped Employees
    Fact: Employers risk costly wage-and-hour lawsuits, significant back-pay requirements and stiff penalties if they take a tip credit without meeting all the legal requirements for doing so. There will always be a few who violate any law imposed on citizens or companies. However, most restaurant employers are not willing to break the law or jeopardize their businesses by failing to take the required steps for claiming a tip credit. The vast majority of restaurant operators follow the rules, designed as safeguards for tipped employees.

  • 16 Jan 2015 11:47 AM | Anonymous

    Brian Slattery photo


    Survivor Phelps, four decades later.

    The Rolling Stones. Black-Eyed Peas. Bob Dylan. Bruce Springsteen. Bad Brains. King Crimson. Tom Waits. Toots and the Maytals. John Lee Hooker. Wu-Tang Clan. Billy Joel.

    The list of the acts that have played Toad’s Place over the past 40 years is a snapshot of popular music, from America and beyond.

    Brian Phelps, who started at the famous York Street nightclub in 1976 and worked his way up to become manager and owner, appears to have seen just about all of them.

    He’s also seen legal fights with Yale and former business partnersshootingsreports of shootings,underage drinkingdrug busts, and police raids.

    Despite all that, Toad’s—and Phelps—are still there on York Street, even as other clubs have come and gone. With the new year, Toad’s is beginning a 40th anniversary celebration.

    Talking to Phelps, you start to understand why he and Toad’s have survived.

    Ask him about the nuts and bolts of running a club, booking acts, promoting shows, and he speaks in the short precise sentences of a man who knows his business. Ask him about his favorite shows, the people he’s met, and his voice quickens; he starts to chuckle in between his words.

    Ask him to show you around the place, and the stories all start to pour out, down to the hot tub in the green room, how it got there, and who’s been in it.

    So the story of Toad’s is, in many ways, the story of Phelps himself, and how he ended up there.

    Through A Broken Door

    In the summer of 1976 Phelps was working at a karate school above the old Cutler’s record shop — he still practices — when someone broke through the door and stole the school’s sign. Phelps had a feeling the sign hadn’t gone far. He walked around the corner and found it at Toad’s, then a year and a half old. It had opened as a restaurant and quickly became a music club.

    Phelps had a talk with Michael Spoerndle, the club’s owner, and got the thief arrested.

    “Of course I never got paid for the door,” Phelps said. But he and Spoerndle became friends, and in October he started working at Toad’s as a manager.

    “I did a lot of different jobs there to learn everything,” he said, from booking to promotion to running a venue.

    Page from Phelps’s photo album. Phelps is the man with the mustache.

    “He used to be my right-hand man,” Spoerndle told the Yale Herald in 2000. “You know, he would stand at the door and break up fights.”

    Spoerndle died in 2011 at the age of 59. Phelps started running the place as sole owner since 1995.

    “We didn’t know what we were doing at first,” he said. “But we learned as we went.”

    Taking Care Of Business—And Bands

    “Can you make money on a show? Or if not, is it worth doing because you want to do it anyway?”

    That thinking drives Phelps from show to show, as — like every great club owner — he balances the need to pay the bills, and hopefully make some profits, against the desire to run a club that plays the best music it can.

    “Sometimes it’s a no-brainer,” Phelps said, of acts that he likes and knows will pack the place. “Other times they’re just looking for big bucks and you got to be careful.”

    Running Toad’s is more expensive than it used to be. The club owns the building, but Phelps has seen property taxes double. Other costs of doing business, like insurance, have gone up, too. On the other hand, according to Phelps, between email blasts and social media, promotion is as easy as it’s ever been.

    Phelps ran through the details of changes he’s made over the years, from improved ways of scanning IDs to getting rid of glassware, off the top of his head.

    “There’s a lot of places that make mistakes,” he said.

    But he hasn’t forgotten what the business is all for.

    “You bring in the best artist you can,” he said. “and you do the best you can with them.”

    Ramones Drank Yoo-Hoo

    When Phelps talked about music, he lit up.

    “When I first came in, I didn’t know much about it,” he said. But year after year, show after show, he found his taste deepening and broadening, until he was booking acts from blues to funk, rock to reggae, jazz to hip hop, R&B to new wave.

    Getting stuck in a niche, he said, is “the road to disaster” in what is already a tough enough business.

    More important, “you can really develop a likeness toward everything,” he said. “When we’re making money, that’s even better. But I still like the music. The roar coming off the crowd sometimes is deafening. You see the smiles on people’s faces. They just become one with the sound. It’s a beautiful thing.”

    How many nights have there been like that?

    “A lot,” he said. He remembered the famous shows — Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, the Stones. “Dylan played the longest show of his career here in 1990,” he said — four sets, until 2:30 in the morning. The club was supposed to close at 2:00. “There were a ton of cops there. They were watching the show.”

    He recalled Joe Cocker vividly: “When he started singing, people just melted.” He remembered when he had B.B. King, the Kentucky HeadHunters, and Mark Isham, who had all just won Grammys, all perform in the same weekend.

    P. Funk was “a little disoriented in the early days,” but he still books them year after year, and they still pack the place.

    Fishbone “always puts on a great show,” Phelps said. Once when the group played, “a couple of the guys threw another of the guys so far up in the air, his head was up in the lights.”

    Iggy Azalea played there in August 2013. “It was a beautiful night,” Phelps said. “Nobody knew she was going to get so big, so fast.”

    Phelps got to know the musicians offstage, too. When Meat Loaf first played Toad’s in 1977 he fell off the stage and cut his leg open. When he returned years later, he was with Phelps before the show. He walked over to the spot where he’d taken his fall and rolled up his pant leg to show Phelps the scar.

    “Right here!” Meat Loaf said. “I did that right here!”

    At U2’s first show at Toad’s in 1980, “Bono got in a fight with one of the guys from Barooga,” the band U2 was opening for. “There were maybe 100 people in the place. He was chasing the guy around.”

    At the last show the Ramones ever played at Toad’s — “they started dying after that,” Phelps said — Phelps brought the group a cake. He couldn’t bring champagne to toast the group’s members because none of them drank anymore: “Their big drink was Yoo-Hoo.”

    He toasted Patti Smith with champagne between sets in 2007 when she came by Toad’s just after being inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. He raised his glass to her.

    “No one was ever more worthy,” Phelps said.

    “Even Elvis?” Smith responded. The rest of the band laughed.

    Phelps still toasts bands now, including with Deep Banana Blackout at the start of the holiday season. And Kung Fu’s latest show, on Dec. 19, sold the place out.

    Just one band has used the hot tub in the green room downstairs, however.

    Phelps brought the thing into the basement of the club — where the green room is — and then installed the walls around it. He figured the bands would enjoy it. But it turned out that no one wanted to use it. They were afraid of who might have been in it before them.

    “So far the only band that’s used it is Gwar,” Phelps said, and started laughing. “They got in there and relaxed. ‘This is nice,’ they said. You should have seen it afterward. It looked like pea soup.”

    As Phelps gets older, he said, he thinks he’ll cut back on his nighttime hours. But he has no plans to retire. Which suggests that Toad’s, 40 years old and still jumping, has plenty of years left.

<< First  < Prev   1   2   3   4   5   ...   Next >  Last >> 

Thank you to our Industry Partners


Connecticut Restaurant Association
38 Hungerford Street
Hartford, CT  06106
All contents of are: ©2012 Connecticut Restaurant Association
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software