‘Failure was never an option’
State Reps. Jason Perillo and Ben McGorty along with Sen. Kevin Kelly paid Bar 140, located on Center Street, a visit as a part of their local business highlight tour.
Co-owner Joe Ballaro said it’s been a trial-and-error process in his transformation from being a patron of bars to owning one of his own.
“We’ve come a long way in the past four years,” said Ballaro.
The cozy bar offers its customers a “homey” vibe that’s an amalgamation of some of Ballaro’s favorite hangout spots in New Haven.
“We used to hang out a lot at places like Rudy’s, Cafe Nine, and BAR, and just incorporated little things from each one to create a place of our own,” said Ballaro.
When the business was first coming together, Ballaro said, he and his wife, Co-owner Tiffany, were short on cash, so they had to be resourceful.
“We went to Richter’s, another tavern in New Haven, when they were going out of business and bought all of their furniture and some of their refrigerators. We were really on a tight budget. I’m not quite sure how we opened up, actually, but we did, and now we’re here.”
Along with some recognizable décor from Richter’s, Ballaro said, the business also adopted some pieces from Long Hill school as well as some work from local artists.
Tiffany Ballaro credits the bar’s increasing reputation and success over the past four years to its personable staff.
“We really value the relationships we build with customers when they come to us. Even if we don’t know your name, we will recognize you, and I think people really appreciate that,” she said. “When we got started, we were really young. I mean, we’re young now, but when we first got started a lot of our friends were excited to hear that we owned a bar. Joe also knows a ton of people in town, so that helped a lot, too.”
Tiffany added that they were fortunate to have been able to maintain the same staff since they’ve opened.
According to Joe Ballaro, “failure was never an option.”
“Everyone here really works two jobs and are willing to do whatever needs to be done, which is more than I could ever ask for,” he said. “I’ve recently made my way more to the front end, handling more management-type responsibilities, but I used to do a lot more cooking and bartending.”
Ballaro also brings a culinary background to the table, which he feels has been a huge asset.
The bar offers a small menu, but Bar 140 is known for its fries and tacos, according to Ballaro and several Yelp reviews. There are a variety of bourbons, wines and beers on tap to assure that all customers can find what they’re looking for.
“We literally have some bottles just for one or two customers,” said Tiffany. “They tell us they like something and we’ve ordered it for them.”
“We really cook what is available to us, since we try to shop local at Stone Gardens for as much as we can,” said Joe. “I love tacos, and everyone seems to gravitate toward them as well. Yelp has surprisingly been really helpful for us; I guess we were kind of surprised the amount of people who check it before trying a place for the first time.”
The business hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. and the kitchen closes around 10:30 p.m., but fries are served all night.
Perillo, McGorty, and Kelly all sat inside one of the two dining areas where customers often play games such as Jenga and Connect Four while enjoying conversation, but Ballaro said that during the summertime the bar opens up its patio.
“We have one TV that we only really turn on if the Yankees are playing or someone asks us to, because we like the idea of people coming to the bar and enjoying conversation,” said Joe.
He said Bar 140 takes pride welcoming all of its customers with open arms and offers them a low-key environment with personable staff.
“People go to other bars to be seen, but people come here to not be seen, and that’s something that makes us unique.”