Jordan Sawyer, who just last week received final approval for his liquor and victualing licenses for his new restaurant, Brick Pizza Co., is optimistic about the future of the industry that was …
Jordan Sawyer, who just last week received final approval for his liquor and victualing licenses for his new restaurant, Brick Pizza Co., is optimistic about the future of the industry that was arguably the most hard-hit during the pandemic.
“Once this is all over, the whole hospital industry is going to come back really strong,” he said. “People have been cooped up for a long time, and they’re itching to get out.”
As the owner of the Bristol Oyster Bar, Mr. Sawyer already knows well what it’s been like to run a restaurant these past 12 months. He reports that business at The Oyster Bar is not optimal, but suggests that’s only because current COVID regulations require them to operate at 50 percent capacity.
“I’m very optimistic about what will happen after the COVID regulations are over,” he said.
The site of the future Brick Pizza Co. at 500 Wood St., on this very cold and windy day, is desolate — the roof remains open to the elements and the weather is too foul for progress. But lots is happening in a nearby space in Unity Park, the former Bristol Industrial Park now being actively redeveloped.
“Since the building is still not weathertight, we have been building offsite,” Mr. Sawyer said, leading the way into a cavernous room with a bar, tables, and banquettes, all under construction. “Everything here comes apart in eight-foot sections, and when the space is done we can just move it all in.”
Making the old, new again
The outfitting of the restaurant is being overseen by Mr. Sawyer’s project manager, Barry Lindsey. “The design was all him,” said Mr. Sawyer of Mr. Lindsey’s plan. He’s using reclaimed wood from the old roof of the original building for all the tables and the bar. Each table is an original work of art.”
“When Jordan brought me on, they were taking that roof down and I said ‘Well, we have to use all that wood; bring a bit of Bristol back into it’,” said Mr. Lindsey.
In addition to the original roof boards which create a varied and visually interesting design on the bar and each table, the massive trim work from the original roof will provide a dramatic backdrop for the bar, while the original roof trusses are going to be fashioned into the floorboards of the restaurant’s function room.
The Brick Pizza Co. will be a large space — 8,000 square feet in total — which includes a large open kitchen, a prep kitchen, a function room and the main dining area. With outdoor seating, Mr. Sawyer is aiming for 165 seats, including the bar, post-Covid.
“We’ll probably open with half of that,” he said. “We have plenty of space.”
Pizza will figure prominently on the menu, and the space will also feature a large and visible brick pizza oven, a hybrid-fueled gas and wood oven that combines the best of tradition and technology for consistent temperatures and cook times.
The menu will also feature New England fare with a Mediterranean influence, using only local and seasonal ingredients. Andy McWilliams, the current executive chef at The Oyster Bar, will serve as the Corporate Chef, overseeing both venues. Matt Lerish, the current sous chef, will take over as executive chef at The Oyster Bar. Alex Sigman will be brought onboard to serve as the executive chef at Brick Pizza Co. “Most of us are Newport Restaurant Group vets. I did my externship at Hemenways,” said Mr. Sawyer, who attended Johnson & Wales for his Restaurant Management degree.
The craft cocktail program will be designed by Chris Lowre and Bar Manager Mike Zito. They will be hiring for other positions in May.
“I wasn’t planning on starting another restaurant during this pandemic, but an opportunity was presented to me,” said Mr. Sawyer. “Once Mr. Brito showed me the plans for Unity Park, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of — so I jumped in with both feet.”