Half-Keg Tavern returns in New London

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New London — The Half-Keg Tavern, one of the last of its kind in Connecticut, is under new ownership after closing down and going dark for several months earlier this year.

Teresa D. Stomberg and her son, David Donatello, now run the Broad Street tavern, which reopened Oct. 28. It closed sometime in May, they reported.

The Half-Keg, like other taverns, serves only wine and beer. But taverns have been on a downswing since the 1970s, and the Half-Keg was one of only two of its kind left in the city, including the Dutch Tavern, a placed revered by the artistic community for its connection to playwright Eugene O'Neill.

"It's just a great place, a homey place," said customer Simon John of New London, sitting at a bar stool. "It's like that 'Cheers' bar where everyone knows your name."

The Half-Keg has none of literary connections enjoyed by the Dutch, but it does have a place in the region's military history. The half-round building is a former Quonset hut likely picked up cheaply after World War II, and the tavern dates itself to 1946.

"Everything is original, except for the walls," said Stomberg, manning the bar earlier this month.

Stomberg redid the walls after removing several booths that once had been placed in a corner. She pointed to hinges on a ceiling where she said bunks reportedly once were hidden.

Stomberg put in five television sets for the sports crowd. She also added a little kitchen, with a grill and a convection oven, bringing food back to the tavern for the first time in a while.

Burgers and grinders are some of the menu items.

"Everything's fresh, not frozen," Stomberg said.

The beers are by tap or by bottle, including Stella Artois, Red Apple, Yuengling and Outer Lights Brewing Co. in Groton.

"I'm just a Budweiser or a Bush guy," John said, but there are foreign beers, including Heineken and El Presidente.

The state as a whole has only 54 establishments with tavern licenses, and many of these are actually restaurants that sell just wine and beer. The New York Times has estimated the state at one time had as many as 700 taverns in the 1940s to 1950s, but the popularity is on the wane because more profits are found in hard liquors. 

The tavern, which previously had been run by Ron and Mary Ann DiNoto, is open from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday, extending an extra hour on Fridays and Saturday and opening at 11 a.m. Sundays.

"I was always hoping somebody would pick it up that was cool," John said of the tavern. "Thank God for Teresa."

l.howard@theday.com

BUSINESS SNAPSHOT

What: Half-Keg Tavern

Where: 647 Broad St., New London

Who: Teresa Stomberg and David Donatello

Phone: (860) 326-9974

Years in Business: 70

Hours: 10 a.m.-1 a.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday through Saturday; 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sunday

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