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    Tuesday, November 28, 2023

    What’s Going On: Inn at Mystic catching the next wave with Room 245

    The bar at Room 245 looks directly onto a patio area with views of Mystic Harbor at the Inn of Mystic during a grand opening celebration on Sept. 21, 2023. Photo by Lee Howard/The Day
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    A view of Stonington Harbor graces the Room 245 entertainment and bar space at the Inn at Mystic during a grand opening celebration Sept. 21, 2023. Photo by Lee Howard/The Day
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    Crowds mingle on one of the two patios at Room 245 entertainment and bar space during a grand opening celebration Sept. 21, 2023. Photo by Lee Howard/The Day
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    The Inn at Mystic’s sprawling 14-acre property is a gem of the shoreline, and now a new entertainment venue carved out of old storage space below the Rocks 21 restaurant on site promises a hip space for special events and Sunday football viewing.

    I attended a special grand opening celebration of Room 245, as the space is being called, on Sept. 21, joined by a host of local guests invited to explore Rocks 21’s sister operation. Room 245 actually opened last spring, but with the busy tourist months thrusting operations into warp speed right away, general manager Scott Barlow decided to hold the opening celebration in the fall.

    “We let it evolve over the summer, and without any press it took off,” Barlow said Thursday in a phone interview. “Now we want to get back to the locals here, to have them take a look at us. We’re excited about it.”

    Barlow said the idea behind Room 245 started during COVID-19 in the summer of 2020 when he and his partners, Yehuda Amar and Al Farrah, decided to use some space near a putting green to create an outside dining area.

    “It took off like wildfire,” Barlow said.

    So next year they decided to put in a makeshift bar and provide outside music. But that fizzled when neighbors complained about excessive noise, and the town intervened.

    That’s when the partners started looking at the storage space below Rocks 21 that had previously been used as a sales office and before that had provided extra lodging space. In fact, as they excavated the property they found an old sign for one of the rooms labeled, “245.”

    Hence, the name.

    It took about a year and a half of renovating the space to create an open, modern feel inside while offering an expansive view of the water from two large patios outside. With a great view of Mystic Harbor, it’s a perfect place to catch a drink and some cool breezes in the summer, or to enjoy warm food and a fire pit as we inevitably glide toward the cooler months to come.

    “It’s been very popular,” Barlow said. “Mystic is like the hottest thing going not only in New England but in the country. The uptick has been great.”

    Barlow said Room 245 also complements the Inn at Mystic’s thriving wedding business at Haley Mansion, a historic home on site that contains five guestrooms and is a perfect spot for small to medium-size weddings. Rocks 21 can be used for rehearsal dinners and farewell brunches, he said, but Room 245 (which stays open till 2 a.m. on the weekends) is now a sizzling spot for the after parties that have become a wedding tradition as well.

    Inside and out, Room 245 has enough space to accommodate up to 250 people, he said. And that doesn’t count the restaurant, which can hold another 250 people.

    But Barlow promised that neighbors will not have a problem with excessive noise. The Haley Mansion now shuts off its music at 10 p.m., and Room 245’s live entertainment will be housed in the new bar area to mitigate noise issues.

    “We’re very respectful of our neighbors,” Barlow said. “We worked with them by moving the music inside.”

    Room 245 entertainment will run most Thursdays through Sundays and runs the gamut, from country to rock to big bands and even comedy once a month. At times, DJs will provide musical entertainment, and trivia nights are also being planned on Mondays.

    Barlow said this time of the year patrons are looking forward to watching NFL football games on the 30 televisions sprinkled throughout Room 245. He said the space will also be a perfect spot for private parties to celebrate birthdays and other special events, including family holiday gatherings.

    The Inn at Mystic restaurant, rebranded in 2019 as Rocks 21, has always been a spot for family gatherings, going way back to the Flood Tide when men were required to wear ties and even to the most recent iteration called Harbour House. But times have changed, and things are not so stuffy any more, even though the public still craves first-rate food, so the ambiance is now more casual and open.

    “Our food is going to the next level,” Barlow said. “We’re preparing to hit this growth spurt, and we’ve got a great management team in place.”

    At the height of the summer, the Inn at Mystic employs about 125 people, and 50 remain through the slower months. Barlow said an extra 10 to 15 people were hired specifically for Room 245, and a new menu developed specifically for the new space should be ready by the end of October.

    “We’ve accomplished something very unique here,” manager Chris Roth said in a release. “We offer much more than just great dining and a lively bar with water views.”

    Barlow likes to tout the “one-stop shopping” of the Inn at Mystic with the addition of Room 245, especially for those in search of a wedding destination.

    “It’s a great property just tucked away in Mystic,” he told me. “The competition is great. It just brings more people into the area. We know Mystic is growing. We’re not fighting it.”

    Lee Howard is The Day’s business editor. Reach him at l.howard@theday.com.

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