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Published: Friday, 7/13/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Gastropub owners ride wave of success

Bar 145 plans to transform winner into franchises

BY KRIS TURNER
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Robby Lucas, Bar 145's executive chef, prepares food on the patio Tuesday, which is a highlight of Tuesday nights. The menu items are prepared at the time of ordering; nothing is made in advance. Robby Lucas, Bar 145's executive chef, prepares food on the patio Tuesday, which is a highlight of Tuesday nights. The menu items are prepared at the time of ordering; nothing is made in advance.
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Jeremy Fitzgerald's key to making Bar 145 a success is attention to detail.

The food is mostly local, fresh, and never frozen. The atmosphere is bumpin' -- some of the big-name bands from Put-in-Bay, Ohio, play at the eatery at 5305 Monroe St. on weekends. The menu changes every few months and is geared toward whatever produce is in season.

Mr. Fitzgerald hopes his recipe for success will translate across the Midwest as he prepares to franchise Bar 145. A second location, which will be owned by Mr. Fitzgerald and business partner George Simon, is slated for the Kent State University area in Kent, Ohio, and is slated to open in mid-October.

"I want to say it's going to take off," Mr. Fitzgerald said. "There is nothing else like us out there."

Bar 145, which Mr. Fitzgerald had always intended to franchise, plans to expand to Michigan, Illinois, and across Ohio. The gastropub -- a term for bars that also place an emphasis on serving quality food -- should have 10 to 15 locations in the next two to three years, he said.

"We'd like to go all over the United States whenever we have the opportunity to go," he said, adding that potential expansions could include Texas and North Carolina.

Robby Lucas, executive chef of the restaurant, said the menus at new Bar 145 franchises will reflect their communities. If the gastropub locates in New England, you could expect to see seafood on the menu. If it goes to Texas, barbecue could be a staple. "Each region will be different," Mr. Lucas said. "We will target the region."

Bar 145 is a gastropub, a term used for a restaurant that combines high-qualify food with a bar-type festive atmosphere. Bar 145 is a gastropub, a term used for a restaurant that combines high-qualify food with a bar-type festive atmosphere.
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Bar 145 features build-your-own burgers that can have items such as artisan cheese, bourbon-smoked bacon, and prosciutto added to them. The restaurant's menu also lists a chef's charcuterie of cured meats, olives, homemade cheeses, and grilled focaccia and baked seasonal clams with olive and blue cheese tapenade.

Dishes aren't prepared ahead of time, Mr. Lucas said.

"When an order comes in, that's when the dish starts to be prepared," he said.

That same approach to food will be implemented in Bar 145's franchises, Mr. Fitzgerald said. Mr. Fitzgerald said he'll seek out owners who know the restaurant and franchise business well enough to do the Bar 145 name justice.

Diane Kruzel was sitting at the bar on the restaurant's patio Tuesday evening and said the bartender always has her favorite drink -- an amaretto sour -- waiting for her. That customer appreciation, as well as the high quality of the drinks and food, is why the Toledo resident keeps coming back.

"It's a place I can come and I'm taken care of," she said.

Ken Balog of Richmond, Va., seems to enjoy the ambience of Bar 145 on Monroe Street west of Flanders Road. Ken Balog of Richmond, Va., seems to enjoy the ambience of Bar 145 on Monroe Street west of Flanders Road.
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Every Tuesday is Bar 145's Pinot on the Patio, which is an evening that features $15 bottles of wine and specialty dishes prepared by Mr. Lucas on the patio. The patio had no free seating at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Businessmen in suits mingled with each other, families with small children dined inside, and a steady stream of people poured into the restaurant throughout the night.

Bar 145 opened its Monroe Street location in Toledo in May, 2011, and was making money within the first few months, said Jake Guthrie, director of operations.

The idea behind Bar 145 was to take upscale dining and put it in a fun atmosphere, Mr. Fitzgerald said. The wait staff dons red Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers, but the food is served on white china -- a culture clash Mr. Fitzgerald created on purpose.

"It's been doing really well," he said. "We couldn't be happier."

Contact Kris Turner at: kturner@theblade.com or 419-724-6103.



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