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Mohegan - Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Tuesday joined Mohegan tribal officials at the future site of an Arooga's Grille House and Sports Bar, the first of 15 Arooga's franchises the tribe plans to open over the next five years.
"Thank you for entering into this relationship," Malloy said, referring to the tribe's franchising agreement with Arooga's, a Harrisburg, Pa.-based chain. "This is a wonderful way to bring jobs to the state."
The groundbreaking ceremony took place under a tent erected at the site, which is in an employee parking lot off Sandy Desert Road and Route 32, not far from Mohegan Sun, the tribe's flagship casino.
Kevin Brown, the Mohegan tribal chairman, and Gary Huether Jr., president and co-founder of Arooga's, also addressed a small gathering of tribal and local officials.
"Today we break ground for the first of many Arooga's in New England, with a strong business plan and a new business partnership that will bring jobs and generate revenue in the region for years to come," Brown said.
Mohegan Chief Lynn Malerba offered a blessing, then Malloy and members of the Mohegan Tribal Council donned hard hats and gripped shovels.
The 9,000-square-foot restaurant will employ about 75 people. It will include more than 100 television screens, a collection of sports memorabilia, a dining patio equipped with fire pits and a tap room serving up to 40 domestic and craft beers.
A/Z Corp. of Ledyard will build the restaurant, which is scheduled to open in March.
Malloy described the Mohegans as "hard-working, energetic and truthful."
"They keep all of their promises," he said, suggesting Arooga's "could not have picked a better partner."
Huether said Arooga's was founded in 2008 and now operates nine restaurants in Pennsylvania. In 2010, Arooga's was named "America's Next Top Restaurant Franchise" in a national competition among 250 entrants. Judging was based on concept, menus, business plan, sales and marketing, profitability statements, training programs and overall franchise potential.
Arooga's agreement with the tribe is the chain's first franchising deal, Huether said. Others, he said, are "in the works."
The Mohegans, intent on diversifying beyond gaming, have announced a separate franchising agreement with Smashburger, a Denver-based restaurant chain. The tribe also has acquired wood pellet production plants in Ohio and Indiana, and has formed an office technology company in a joint venture with Leslie Digital Imaging of Jericho, N.Y.