MERIDEN — After Quality Time Food & Spirits closed its doors in August, many were anxious to see what would happen to the former bar.
When the bar reopened as the Dawg House Bar & Grill last week, patrons learned that new owners, Berlin residents Louise and Bianca Jacques, incorporated parts of the bar’s past while also taking steps toward the future.
The mother-daughter duo opened Dawg House Bar & Grill at 999 Broad St. the Friday before Thanksgiving.
“We quietly opened because first impressions mean so much, we wanted to know we could handle it and it turned out really well,” co-owner Louise Jacques said. “Meriden found out we were open anyway so on that first night…this place was like three-deep at the bar all night.”
Many customers have also come in wanting to meet them, and to tell them how they used to be regulars at Quality Time.
“You wouldn’t believe the amount of people that have thanked us for opening,” Bianca Jacques said.
Quality Time Food & Spirits was operated by the Vumbaco family for 15 years. Paul Vumbaco died in May 2015 following an accident at his Higganum home, and the decision to close the business in August was a mutual one between his wife Sharon Vumbaco and children Alyssa and Joseph.
Louise and Bianca both wanted to keep the restaurant as similar to Quality Time as possible. The bar still has the same tables, chairs and bar seats. They painted and added new computerized cash registers, but even the kitchen staff remains the same.
“We were kind of sad when (Quality Time) closed. We weren’t sure what to expect when it reopened,” Durham resident Steve Behling said referring to his group of friends. “The menu looks exactly the same…now we know what to expect from the food.”
Louise Jacques said she wanted to understand what customers enjoyed the most on the Quality Time menu, and kept items like the “QT sampler,” to keep the Quality Time memory. Louise said the only change was adding calamari to the options.
“It’s definitely not something you can do alone,” Bianca Jacques said of opening the restaurant. “Everything’s new to us, you just kind of have to work hard and figure it out.”
Now more than a week into business, the duo can see why everyone likes to come to eat, drink and have fun.
“It kind of feels like home. Everybody that comes in here says that and it’s starting to feel like home to us too— not just because I’m here like a hundred hours a week,” Bianca Jacques said.
Bianca Jacques said the duo hopes to continue Quality Time’s fundraising efforts, including the St. Baldrick’s head shaving event in the spring.
“Over the past few weeks, we’ve heard all the stories. Everyone comes in with a different story about Paul and everybody has a little memory to share,” Bianca Jacques said.
In January, Dawg House Bar & Grill plans to do an official grand opening with city officials.
“We just wanted to get in here, get open,” Louise Jacques said. “Now it’s the busy season with Christmas and all that, so once we settle we’ll do our grand opening.”
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