General Manager John Torres said this week he is feeling “pretty comfortable” with the timeline.
“We are hustling,” Torres said. “There may be some over-nighters. The things I’m really concerned about not being 100 percent would be certain design things, (but) functional things — the bar, the kitchen, the sound system, the lighting system — those will be ready.”
Torres’ parents, Rick and Michele, who operate the 28-year-old Harborview Market in the same Black Rock section of the city, purchased the shuttered Acoustic on Fairfield Avenue earlier this year. And given the popularity of their Harborview business, which Connecticut Magazine called “a hidden neighborhood gem,” the same family seeking to revitalize another cherished local establishment has been a big deal.
“The reaction we got, it just blew us away,” Michele Torres said this week. “People were so excited. We were really, really heart-warmed.”
She said she hoped the new venue lived up to expectations.
“There’s a high bar being placed on people’s expectation levels,” she said.
After two decades hosting established musicians and their fans and nurturing new performers, including John Torres, the Acoustic closed in May, 2020.
John Torres said that in late 2019, then-owner and “dear old friend” William Vega first broached the idea of selling the business to his family.
“I’ve been going to the acoustic since it opened,” Torres recalled. “So much of my memories of my teens, twenties and thirties are at the acoustic. I was a fixture there. I played there. My first show was there.”
Michele Torres said that after several months of deliberations and negotiations with the landlord — she and her husband own the business but rent the space — the two “decided to take the plunge.”
“This is a huge, huge project,” John Torres said. “It’s a life-altering event.”
Even though the venue has yet to open, Torres, his father and other family members have spent days doing their own renovations.
“My dad is a master carpenter, craftsman, woodworker,” John Torres said of Rick, who, besides his affiliation with Harborview Market, is probably best known as one of deep blue Democratic Bridgeport’s formerly most active Republican leaders, an ex-mayoral candidate, and for his brief stint on the City Council.
“I’m not at that level but I’ve swung a hammer or two in my day so we’re tag-teaming it,” John Torres said.
The biggest challenge has been finding contractors for some of the work not in the family’s wheelhouse, like electrical and plumbing, as well as materials held up by shipping delays that many people and businesses have been experiencing, John Torres said.
Despite the planned Nov. 20 official opening, Michele Torres said she was hoping the venue could hold a soft opening a week or two before that for friends and family.
“We’re a little bit at other people’s mercy. We’re doing everything we can to expedite it on our own,” she said.
John Torres said the family has begun hiring staff of various specialties to book talent, run the box office, oversee the bar and kitchen and handle other responsibilities to ensure the operation is as professional and as successful as possible and the Torreses do not get burned out.
“You need to separate out responsibility at a place like this,” Torres said. “We’re bringing a Harborview-level of expertise to the team and delegating and making sure nobody’s worn out or doing something outside of their comfort zone or skill set. You can’t do it all yourself. I don’t have the competence for some things. I don’t actually have the interest in some of these.”
He said Acoustic regulars who patronize the Park City Music Hall will find the stage relocated and more natural light. Those design choices, plus a focus on serving food and drinks/cocktails, will separate the new establishment from the old.
“The Acoustic used to open pretty much for shows, and at night,” Torres said. “We’re trying to be open seven days. We’re trying to create an environment you would want to be at whether there’s a show.”
The music hall will be more of a bar than the Acoustic was, Michele Torres said.
“We want it to be a hangout place,” she said.
Much of her focus will be on the food, she added.
“There will be lunch-type food, bar food, nights where there will be a special menu,” she said. And while there might be some cross-over items or dishes with the market, she emphasized, “We want to create a different menu.”
Rich Franzino, who founded the Acoustic in 1999 and sold it about nine years later, stopped by the site recently to check out what the Torreses are doing there.
“It took a long time to grow and they’re doing this wonderful. I think it’s going to be fabulous,” Franzino said. “It’s exactly the way I would have gone.”
And he feels great pride in seeing the club’s newest incarnation.
“It changed my life,” Franzino said. “I’ve been in entertainment since I was 14. The Acoustic — now Park City — was the most important thing I’ve ever done in entertainment. I love the place forever.”
Martin McCarthy owns Fire Engine Pizza Company next door. He opened that restaurant 10 years ago and said he too is looking forward to the music hall’s debut.
“It’s gonna be amazing,” McCarthy said this week. “I think the Torres family will just take it to the next level. They’re literally hand-crafting everything themselves. They literally have their hands in every aspect of that construction.”
And, McCarthy added, he does not see another eatery along Fairfield Avenue as competition. He expects some music lovers will stop by his place before or after shows.
“Their food at the market is fantastic. I’m sure their food (at the music hall) is gonna be fantastic,” he said. “But some people just wanna grab a pie or pasta dish or salad, you know? Who doesn’t want to go out for dinner, then a show?”
As for the market’s future, Michele Torres wanted to reassure customers the Torreses are not abandoning their first love for a new one. She said the purchase of the Acoustic, coupled with the possibility the market will temporarily shutter for a month or so during the winter for some renovations there, has fueled rumors of the latter’s fate.
“In peoples’ minds they’re thinking, ‘Oh, are they, like, shifting (businesses)?” Torres said. “No. Not at all. Harborview will continue to get better and better. It’s a very special place to our family and we would never just walk away from it.”
This content was originally published here.