Harp & Dragon signs lease extension, wins NCDC funds
John Shishmanian/ NorwichBulletin.com
Brian Donahue, left, and Kemberly Phillips, both of Middletown, have lunch Thursday at the Harp and Dragon Pub in downtown Norwich. At center is waitress Kerrie Kennedy, of Groton.
The Harp & Dragon Pub plans to remain at its Main Street location for the next 15 years and use more than $40,000 from city revitalization programs to help expand the site, officials announced Thursday.
Additionally, construction is set to start this spring on a second Harp & Dragon location on Bank Street in New London, co-owner Scott Capano said.
Over the next several months, the restaurant will add to its Norwich footprint in three phases, adding a second-floor banquet room that can accommodate up to 100 people and an adjoining wine- and beer-tasting lounge.
Plans also call for the construction of a 2,600-square-foot outdoor dining area that may open as soon as this summer, Capano said.
“Any towns we do business in, we want to be a civic-minded business operator,” Capano said. “We have been fortunate enough not to have to profit from Harp & Dragon, but 100 percent reinvest back into the city.”
Jackie Roy, program manager at Norwich Community Development Corporation, said Harp & Dragon will receive lease rebates for the next 10 years that will start at $34,000 and decrease annually.
CAP Realty, which is also owned by the Capanos, is getting a $9,500 matching grant for code corrections to allow for construction on the banquet area. Harp & Dragon, 130-136 Main St., is owned by CAP Realty, according to city assessor’s records.
“They’re using these programs in the way we envisioned. They are really building reinvestment and growth. They’re here for the long run,” Roy told NCDC’s Board of Directors Thursday.
Capano said the company is planning to spend up to $400,000 on the Norwich expansion, adding a projected 35 new full-time jobs.
“Having partners like them in the private sector is a wonderful thing,” Mayor Peter Nystrom said.
Kevin Kirby, of Franklin, who was in the restaurant for lunch on Thursday, welcomed plans for a larger Harp & Dragon.
“I honestly believe the town leaders should take a page out of their playbook,” he said. “They cater to what people want.”
Bob Mills, NCDC’s executive director, said Capano’s business has grown into a regional draw since opening seven years ago.
“We see it all the time. We see dozens and dozens of cars here parked from out of town, and they’re all walking to the Harp & Dragon,” Mills said. “The fact they are wanting to grow and make these kind of investments in downtown is nothing but good news for the city.”
Capano, whose company also owns property at 146 Main St., said executives are working on plans to convert that building into a “destination venue” as well.
“You have to provide something new,” he said. “You’ve got to be out there marketing, and the single biggest key is the right team.”