Karaoke fans will have to seek other venues for their talents over the next few months — New Haven restaurant and pub TJ Tuckers, known for its karaoke contests and drink specials, will be closed for renovations until March.
The Chapel Street business, part of the Colony Hotel, underwent a change of management Jan. 1. The new managers and owners, the LAX Sisters Restaurant Group, said they plan a “very strong cosmetic makeover” for TJ Tuckers.
“I think the space has been under-utilized over the past few years,” said Peter Higgins, one of the three new owners.
Higgins, along with his two partners Helen Odell and chef Frank Monahan, plans to change Tuckers into a family-style restaurant catering to a broader range of clientele. The restaurant will still include a bar on the second level, although after renovations it will have less of a “nightclub atmosphere,” Higgins said.
“It will be the warm-up before you go other places,” said Odell, a restaurateur with 20 years of experience.
Renovations will include new tables, booths, lighting and carpeting, as well as an updated kitchen and a glass partition between the restaurant and bar. The second level will also feature a less formal dining area geared toward parties and student groups. In addition to the physical changes, the restaurant will also be renamed.
“Other restaurants [in the area] are a lot more narrow [in focus] than we want to be,” Higgins said. The new owners hope to attract all types of customers, including students, their families, alumni and locals.
A new menu will feature a wide range of American cuisine, from hamburgers and appetizers to steak and salmon. Monahan described the menu as “upscale, casual American.”
HuiWon Choi ’03 said she enjoyed Tuckers karaoke nights and friendly atmosphere.
“Joe the bartender was really cool — he knew everyone,” she said. “I know a lot of other bars around here, it’s very crowded. At Tuckers, even if it’s crowded, it’s very big and there are separate booths.”
But the new owners said not all will change at Tuckers. Although Higgins said they are unsure whether the karaoke nights will continue after renovations, they intend to “maintain and accentuate the good things that happened here, and add, too.”
“We want to be very community-minded,” he said. “I would really love to work with the University’s arts department if we do entertainment.” TJ Tuckers also hosted live jazz on the weekends.
Higgins began negotiations with the Colony Hotel in the fall. The restaurant will continue to serve as the hotel’s kitchen, providing room service and catering for the conference rooms.
The previous managers of Tuckers never met the target clientele, Higgins said. Before its current incarnation as TJ Tuckers Restaurant and Pub, it was called Charlie B’s Steakhouse.
“[The previous managers] are just not here,” he said. “Let that speak for itself.”
Odell and Higgins said they feel positive about their new opportunity in New Haven.
“New Haven is so alive,” Odell said.