About a year after they built the covered bar and outdoor patio onto the back of Shea’s American Bar & Grill, Mark Resnisky and Jack Maloney realized they had made it too small.
That problem has now been solved -- in a very big way.
By Resnisky’s estimation, the addition of a new two-story post-and-beam covered bar and dining area makes Shea’s American the biggest and most elaborate entertainment patio in the region. A first-time visitor’s typical reaction, he observed, is “Wow.”
Fitted out with dozens of umbrella-covered tables, large-screen televisions and a stage, the fenced-in patio is like a little bit of Florida carved into a Kohl’s department store parking lot. (No shortage of space for patrons’ cars, even on the busiest nights.)
The Shea’s patio now has a capacity of more than 400 patrons to supplement the indoor bar’s 125 year-round seats and 85-seat dining room. The new two-story addition includes an additional bar and an air-conditioned upstairs dining room that can accommodate groups of 30 or 40 -- something the restaurant had difficulty doing before, Resnisky said.
Owing in part to its convenient access to Interstate 84, this Manchester restaurant-bar is drawing patrons from all over central Connecticut, especially on entertainment nights, Resnisky said. On weekends – and Sunday in particular – the entertainment shifts from music popular among the under-30 crowd to something oriented toward older adults, Resnisky said.
Shea’s is also home to one of Connecticut’s Off-Track Betting facilities owned by Sportech Venues, Inc. In a business arrangement motivated in part by the weak economy’s impact on the restaurant and lunch business in particular, Resnisky said, Shea’s rents space to the OTB business and provides food and beverages to its clients. A separate gaming parlor named Winners is fitted out with a wall of televisions that show horse races from many venues. There are other race monitors and betting kiosks at one of the outdoor bars.
Consequently, Shea’s has not been viewed as family-oriented, Resnisky conceded; but the restaurant is working to make the expanded patio more family friendly by removing some of the gambling equipment located there. The presence of the pari-mutual gaming equipment, by law, limits use of the patio to people 21 or older.
Though Shea’s uses portable heaters to extend the patio use in colder weather, the place has two definite business seasons. In the winter, the regulars give the place an atmosphere something like “Cheers” only bigger, Resnisky said.
In the summer, when the weather is good, the nightspot has “monster weekends” and substantial crowds. This could be because of the entertainment and because there is no cover charge. To give you a sense of the size of the crowd, consider that Shea’s goes through 125 cases of Bud Light a week. And that is only one of about 14 beers available.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the most popular items on the menu are things that go well with beer: wings (six for $6.50), nachos ($8.50, made with homemade salsa, three cheeses, jalapenos and black olives), chicken quesadillas ($9.95) and burgers ($7.95).
On the more substantial side, there is the popular meat loaf ($11.95) and Shea’s Famous Baked Mac and Cheese ($11.50). This dish is, to quote the menu, “Momma Shea’s first love!” It includes smoked ham, three cheeses and seasoned breadcrumbs “baked to a light crisp.”
Well, in truth there is no Momma Shea – at least not one related to Resnisky or his business partner Maloney, the majority owner of the restaurant. The pair chose the name because they both have friends named Shea and it sounded way more Irish than Resnisky’s. It also pays dividends on St. Patrick’s Day, Resnisky joked.
The head of operations at the restaurant, Resnisky has owned and operated a variety of eateries in his career, including the Crosstown Bistro in Bloomfield, Diamond Pub & Grill in Glastonbury and the Back Porch Bistro in West Hartford. His culinary mentor was a chef named Don Fritz, the executive chef at Central Connecticut State University.
Resnisky and Maloney have been friends since the 70s, when as young men they traveled together to Florida to visit a mutual friend and wound up staying there “for several years,” their web site says. They opened Shea’s together in Dec. 2007. For years it had been known as the Acadia restaurant.
Maloney is the sports enthusiast and entrepreneur of the pair. Besides Shea’s, he is a principal in ZRink in Glastonbury and Star Hill Family Athletic Center in Tolland. He also organizes the restaurant’s many charitable events.
On July 15, for example, Shea’s sponsors the Mike Maloney & Pete Landry Memorial Golf Tournament. Proceeds will benefit the Manchester Police Activities League and the River Street School for Disabled Children in Windsor. After golf at the Twin Hills Country Club in Coventry, participants return to the restaurant for food and drinks.
Shea's American, 103 Tolland Turnpike, Manchester, 860-432-8658, is open Monday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m. and Sunday until 9 p.m.