Bernie's owner opens new niche bar
By Max Sullivan
Hampton Union, July 15, 2014
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON — When Al Fleury starts a new project, he goes all out. Last summer, he decked out his new beach bar, Bernie's, with real thatch and built the upper deck's walls high enough to hide any trace of pavement, giving his best effort to create an authentic Caribbean beach vibe with an ocean view.
So when it came time to open up The Goat, a country-themed whiskey bar on the corner of Ashworth Avenue and L Street, Fleury bought an entire barn just to tear it down so he could use the wood to build another barn around his eatery.
"Al (Fleury) told me if he was going to have a theme bar, he'd do it the way Disney would do it," Terry Daidone, owner of the building where The Goat sits. "So not only did he just hang a sign up front that says, 'The Goat,' but he built a barn around it."
The Goat, which opened last weekend, features over 50 different types of whiskeys in addition to the standard full bar setup. Sitting in the building that used to house the Happy Clam, patrons will listen to live country music and hang out with bartenders dressed as cowgirls, tastefully, whether inside at the bar or outside on the second floor patio. The drink menu features items like maple and bourbon milk shakes, while the food menu offers 10 vastly different custom burgers among other creative takes on typical bar food.
The bar is Fleury's second new eatery in as many years, the third bar he's owned since taking over Wally's 11 years ago. Teaming up with longtime friend James Scully, Fleury said he couldn't help but jump at the chance to open a bar like The Goat at Hampton Beach. No other bar on the strip so overtly pushes the country theme or specializes in whiskey, he said.
"This is just a niche for the beach," Fleury said. "We don't have anything like this (in Hampton)...; country music is a huge niche, it's the biggest thing going and we're going to try to focus on that niche."
"We had to do what Hampton hasn't seen, and that's a country whiskey bar," said Scully.
Fleury also said he wanted to make sure that the space wasn't wasted by another business owner turning it into an average or worse establishment.
"I didn't want someone else to come in here and make another Happy Clam," Fleury said. "I didn't want it to be a sleazy place, I didn't want it to be a place that hacked out every two years...; this had potential because of where it is, and it could help Wally's, and it could help Bernie's, and it could help this whole strip."
The Goat isn't hard to find from a distance. The sign that hangs out front, also made of barn wood, is of a goat's silhouette. The sign was done by graphic designer Adam Prentiss, who does a good portion of the artwork at Fleury's different establishments.
While so many first time restaurant owners fail in their first year, Fleury makes it look easy to open bar after bar. The trick, he said, is to never stagnate.
"(Wally's, Bernie's and the Goat) are all different, and they're all fun, they don't stay the same," Fleury said. "Bernie's would have been fine the way we had it last year, but this year we added the lower bar and we added the whole new section, we added a big new stage ...; we want to do a bunch of different things with this one."
When asked if he's thought about opening a fourth restaurant in Hampton, Fleury said he plans on spending more time at home with his fiancée and newborn child in the near future, but the prospect isn't out of the question.
"My fiancée would kill me," Fleury said. "I'd be dead. But you never know."
Scully can't imagine Fleury slowing down for too long.
"Whatever he says about slowing," Scully said, "I don't think he's going to stop."