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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

Celebrating 106 years

Former Sandston resident Mildred Taylor celebrated her 106th birthday Aug. 9. Taylor, who now lives in Powhatan, is still a member of Sandston Baptist Church. She was visited the day after her birthday by several members of the church, who played for her a recording of the entire church membership singing happy birthday to her during worship. > Read more.

YMCA breaks ground for aquatic center

YMCA officials gathered last week to break ground on the new Tommy J. West Aquatic Center at the Shady Grove Family YMCA on Nuckols Road. The center, which will featured 7,600 square feet of competitive and recreational space, including water slides, play areas for children and warmer water for those with physical limitations, is the fourth phase of a $4 million expansion at the facility. West was president and CEO of Capital Interior Contractors and a founding member of the Central Virginia Region of the Virginia Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. > Read more.

Rotary donates to ‘Bright Beginnings’

The Sandston Rotary Club recently donated $1,000 to the Sandston YMCA for its Bright Beginnings program, which helps provide children in need with school supplies for the new school year. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Enjoy the final days of summer with comedian Guy Torry, the Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour or mystery writer Mary Miley Theobald at Twin Hickory Library. Another great way to welcome the beginning of fall is to check out the UR Spider Football season opener with man’s best friend. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Bottoms up

Short Pump brewery offers more than just beer
I am still (happily) thinking about my entire experience at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery last week. Knowing nothing about this new brewery out of Denver, I was leery of brew-pub in the heart of Short Pump Town Center – this is not what I’d usually think of as a perfect fit, and yet, it was.

The restaurant and craft brewery opened in early June and features 10 beers made by female brewmaster Becky Hammond (pictured). This is the restaurant’s second location in Virginia; the first is in Arlington. Behind glass walls, customers watched the beer brewing in massive steel barrels. For our up-and-coming beer region, it makes sense that Short Pump would jump on board.

As I walked up to the back of the mall near the comedy club, I was taken aback by what I saw: at the top of the stairs was an overflowing restaurant with outdoor seating, large umbrellas and dangling outdoor lights. > Read more.

Cultural Arts Center announces 2014 fall class schedule

The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen is now registering participants for its fall 2014 schedule of classes.

The center will offer more than 100 classes for children and adults, covering topicssuch as culinary arts, fiber arts, visual and performance arts and more. Instruction is structured to appeal to a wide range of abilities, from beginners to experts of all ages. Class sizes are kept small to ensure maximum benefit for participants with generally no more than 15 students. > Read more.

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