A year after a fire ravaged its building, the owners of The Trinity Bar & Restaurant still have their sights set on returning to Orange Street.
Shane Carty and Eddie Higgins, two childhood friends who grew up together in Dublin, took over the home of the former O’Toole’s Irish Pub at 157 Orange St. back in 2015 to open The Trinity. During a busy Labor Day weekend last year, The Trinity was forced to close when a fire broke out in an apartment above.
Neither man can forget the day when they said they watched their American Dream go up in smoke.
“We were setting up the plaza for the USA-Costa Rica game and expecting 100 or 200 people for that,” Carty recalled in an interview marking the anniversary of the fire. “We couldn’t find one of the cables so I fly to Best Buy to get the cable. I was on the highway, and I got a call from the alarm company that said the fire truck was being dispatched. There was a code alarm. This had happened multiple times before.”
The alarm was usually triggered by someone cooking. Someone would normally run downstairs and check the alarm and everything would be fine. But that wasn’t the case on the day of the fire. Both Carty and Higgins, who had also left the restaurant that day to run to the bank, received a call from their manager telling them that smoke was coming out of the back of the building.
“I turned around on the highway and just as I got down here I could see the smoke,” Carty said. “And I thought, ‘Oh please, God, don’t let that be our building.’ I got in here and it was just pandemonium.”
“We just kind of stood there in disbelief,” Higgins added. “Myself and Shane have been here 25 years now in the States. The Trinity represents 25 years of hard work and saving money for the American Dream. You go to work one day, and it’s up in smoke.”
Carty’s wife was inside The Trinity working at the time. She was bartending and waitressing that day but made it out unharmed. Carty said he had to put out a different fire when news reports indicated that someone had been hurt and taken to the hospital. His child learned about the fire at school. And since Carty is The Trinity’s executive chef and most fires at restaurants start in the kitchen, the rumor that he was the one rushed to the hospital spread like wildfire.
“It was a nightmare,” he said. “I’ll never forget that day.”
Carty said when they got the all clear to go into the building after the fire was put out, things didn’t look so bad. They figured they could reopen in about a month.
“We didn’t realize how bad the upstairs was,” he said. “The water that came down on top of us and got down into the basement and just fried everything.
Trinity had been a popular spot for police officers and firefighters. Higgins said that in addition to putting out the fire, firefighters also traped things like the bar to protect it from water damage.
“They saved a lot of stuff,” he said. “In one way we were very lucky. It could have been a lot worse. But we had no idea we would have been out this long. That has been frustrating.”
The hold-up? Insurance companies and the ongoing repair of the apartments upstairs, he said.
The building is owned by Stephen Ahern of Ahern Properties.
“The landlord really needed to do the upstairs first,” he said. “It was some setbacks along the way and there was a lot of damage up there so they’re still chipping away upstairs. We have no idea when we could actually get in and start working.”
Attempts to reach Ahern for a comment about the status of the building were unsuccessful, but the city’s Building Official Jim Turcio said he expects the building to be back in business sooner rather than later. He estimated that it could be ready for occupation in the next 30 to 60 days.
“It’s moving along now,” he said. “It took a while to settle the insurance, but it’s moving.”
Thanks to the firefighters, the original bar remains. Carty and Higgins have purchased new televisions and a new sound system. There are new floors, new ductwork, and a new HVAC system. They said once the landlord brings in electrical and plumbing contractors and that work is completed and the city signs off on it, they could be back in business.
So optimistic that The Trinity will return, they signed a new lease back in March. But the men are gun shy about announcing when they think that could happen though they think they could be close to re-opening if that aforementioned work could get done soon.
“Originally we were hoping by Christmas,” Higgins said. “Then we were hoping for the Super Bowl, and St. Patrick’s Day, and then it was the World Cup.”
“When we didn’t hit the World Cup we were like, ‘That’s it. No more timelines,’” Carty added.
So they try to keep in touch with as many of their regular customers who they say have all scattered to other watering holes.
“People are always asking, ‘When will you guys reopen?’” Higgins said. “It’s hard. The fear is that you’ve been away for so long that people forget.”
“Especially this time of year when you have the opportunity to generate new revenue and new clientele,” Carty added. “You can’t do that when you’re not here.”
Carty said they’re also hoping they can get back a lot of their staff, many of whom are experienced and part of the charm of The Trinity. About 25 people worked at The Trinity before the fire and they’re all working elsewhere for now.
“We can’t hire new staff and we can’t tell our old staff to come back until we reopen,” he said.
Higgins noted that the bar was a major attraction for Pitkin Plaza. It benefited other businesses in the area like G Café and even the 360 State apartment building, he said.
“We had so much great support from the Yale community, the city, our patrons,” Higgins said. “We’re just praying that when we do reopen that they’ll come back.”
Higgins said if he could tell those awaiting The Trinity’s return anything it’s to keep their eyes and ears open because they plan to come back.
“We want to be back,” he said. “The neighborhood misses us. This was a pretty vibrant neighborhood with a lot of people walking around and there was some activity. When you come down here at night it’s empty.”
It won’t be empty this weekend. Trinity will participate in the upcoming Brew on 9 that will be held on Friday, hosting a stop in the plaza.