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Fans fired up by new Halligan location

If you've noticed that fire trucks seem to park frequently in the vicinity of West Broad Village, don't worry.

Henrico firefighters haven't discovered a new firetrap; they've discovered a new favorite restaurant.

On Dec. 2, recently retired firefighter Shawn Gregory opened The Halligan Bar & Grill, which has as its centerpiece an antique firetruck with a full bar wrapped around it.

As it turns out, the 1967 Oren (which now houses kegs and pump panel beer taps) is the original fire truck that Gregory's firefighter father rode when beginning his career at the Highland Springs station more than 40 years ago.

While searching for a fire truck to memorialize in the restaurant, Gregory stumbled on the vehicle after a private collector called him to take a look. "When I saw it was from Henrico [Fire], it sparked my interest," he says. "Then I saw it was from [Station] No. 3."

A 20-year-veteran of the same fire department as his father's, Gregory knew his search was over.

VIPs and heroes
Like its sister location in Shockoe Bottom, the new restaurant gets its name from the Halligan bar, a special tool used in fire and rescue service. And just as in the Shockoe Bottom location, the new restaurant is built around the theme of a museum – a tribute to past and present firefighters of all jurisdictions.

"Guys can come in [from other jurisdictions] and say, 'There's the helmet we donated,'" says Gregory. "Or, 'There's my picture with our crew.' It gives them a sense of ownership."

Among the firefighter memorabilia incorporated into the theme are buckets and firefighter helmets suspended from the ceiling to serve as lamps, and fire hoses wound into the railing of the patio.

During opening week, Gregory said the customer feedback centered around one consistent theme: the unique atmosphere.

"[Patrons] don't feel like they're in a corporate chain restaurant; it has an urban, 'Fan' kind of feel to it," Gregory says, noting that the layout also lends itself to meeting people.

"You can come in not knowing anybody – and know 10 people when you leave," he says.

On top of the fire truck are two VIP tables, equipped with Virginia's first table-top beer taps. For $25 an hour, the tables can be rented for eight to ten people, with all reservation fees benefiting Halligan's Heroes.

As a tribute to his profession, Gregory established the non-profit to benefit firefighters and their families through its support of local charities such as the Old Dominion Professional Firefighters Burn Foundation. In the restaurant's first week of business, the VIP section brought in $300 for Halligan's Heroes.

‘Wouldn't it be great?’
Gregory has also had some fun with the firefighting themes on his menu, which features "Wings of Fire," a "Battalion Burger," "Dalmation" corn dog nuggets, "Hazmat" supersized portions, and "Extinguishers" for dessert.

Among the Hazmat items is the Flatliner Challenge, which includes a three-pound sandwich and a pound of fries and is served free of charge if eaten by a single patron in less then 25 minutes. Most people order the item to share, says Gregory, although two patrons recently attempted a stand-off – and both failed to meet the challenge.

As an added treat, patrons who complete the Flatliner or the restaurant's signature shot challenge trigger the fire truck's siren, announcing their feat to the entire establishment (and more often than not, inspiring appreciative applause and imitation from fellow diners).

With the help of his brother Rick – who closed a restaurant in North Carolina and moved to Richmond to run the downtown location – Gregory hopes to keep growing in 2012. His plans include opening a Virginia Beach location, and equipping additional fire trucks with a mobile smoking pit and Kegerator that can be taken to festivals and special
events.

Although he will miss firefighting, Gregory says he takes pride in being able to bring his business into Henrico – the county that the Varina H.S. grad has long called home.

What's more, Gregory adds, Halligan represents not only the culmination of a dream, but the embodiment of an idea that germinated long ago during his firefighter days.

"I used to be a bartender," says Gregory. "And so many times – especially in July – I was standing on the side of a [fire] truck after a call, and I'd be so hot and thirsty.

"And I would think, 'Wouldn't it be great if beer came out of this truck?"


Community

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

Agencies combine on new entry point to Chickahominy


Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.

The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Take in a show at several locations this weekend! West End Comedy will provide laughs at HATTheatre; the production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes” will close Sunday; and the youth theatre company CharacterWorks will present “Footloose” at The Steward School. Another show perfect for the kids – “Despicable Me 2” is playing at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center tonight. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Is there an Echo in here?

‘Earth to Echo’ aims to become this generation’s ‘ET’
It’s no secret that all found-footage genre movies are the same. Grab a couple of characters, give one of them a camera, and expose them to something supernatural that’s content to lurk just off-screen until the last five minutes. Everything else will just fall into place.

But that formula isn’t particularly family friendly, if only because that thing waiting a few feet to the left of the cast is usually plotting their violent doom.

That’s what sets Earth to Echo apart from the pack. It, too, follows a group of characters armed with a camera and a tendency to encounter unknown life forms. But all those familiar parts have been rearranged just enough to make it suitable for a much younger audience. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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