BERLIN – The Truck Bar, the first backyard-inspired bar and beer-cade chain, is open in Berlin offering full-throttle fun.
The chain was started and is owned by best friends from East Hartford, Merle McKenzie and Glenn Perra.
“We’ve grown up together since we were about 16-years-old,” Perra said. “Since then we’ve kind of gotten into the fitness world, we’ve owned several Crossfit USA gyms in the state (including one in Berlin) for over a dozen years. We got out of the fitness world and decided to go into the fun and entertainment business.”
“We opened up several axe-throwing establishments around the state and kind of as an offshoot out of that we had this truck that was converted into a bar and that kind of resonated with everybody. They really liked the look of it,” McKenzie added. “So we started day dreaming on how to expand on that concept and four years ago I sketched a drawing of that stage on a piece of paper. I said I want to build a live music venue that everybody can come to listen to good music and build it around trucks and here we are.”
The duo opened three businesses during the height of the pandemic including the first Truck Bar location in Higganum and now this location at 151 Webster Square Road in Berlin.
“This space had previously been a billiard hall about 15 years ago. It has sat here and done very little since,” said Chris Edge, Berlin economic development director during a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday. “I’m especially excited about this because we are on the cusp of having something Berlin maybe never even thought about, which is being like a tourism destination. We got the brewery, the coffee shops, the housing coming in, the golf course and now the Truck Bar.”
The 16,000 square foot, newly-renovated space is decked in trucks and cars of all different types and styles as well as gas station and bar paraphernalia.
“It’s the most unique bar in Central Connecticut, no question about it. I don’t think you can find a place like this anywhere else in Connecticut other than the smaller one they have in Higganum,” said Bill Moore, Greater New Britain Chamber president. “This is incredible – what a fun spot it really is. You’ve got 10 indoor cornhole stations with plenty of high ceiling space to take those looping shots you want to make to impress everybody. You have a motorized bicycle hanging up there. And the back end of a tuck is a couch, which is kind of neat. The décor is just unique; you feel like you’re walking back in time and you’re here for a good time.”
McKenzie said he believes they created the largest venue for cornhole in the United States as an actual venue.
“Meaning a lot of these guys will rent out a sports facility, but as far as a restaurant/bar, it’s one of the few, but definitely the largest,” he said.
The venue also includes an arcade with pool tables and air hockey, darts, a green room, outdoor seating and rooms to rent for various occasions. The venue occupancy is about 425 people. The business also has a partnership with Square Peg Pizza offering items like pizza, wings, meatballs and cheesy bread.
“The one somewhat unusual aspect of this place besides the décor is that we serve everything in a can or a bottle, there are no cups. Even our vodka drinks and margaritas are premade,” McKenzie said.
Guests can also enjoy concerts held on the venue’s stage.
“We’re doing a lot of 80’s rock music,” McKenzie said. “Our first concert is April 9; it’s a big, local band.”
Berlin Town Manager Arosha Jayawickrema said he loves the fact this establishment has a lot to offer in one place.
“What’s unique about this location, and what I like about it, is you get to walk around once you are inside here; you are not stuck in one place. Rather than eat and go, they can eat, drink, hang out, play games and spend more time all in one. That I think is unique; we don’t have a place like this,” he said.
The location currently has 10 employees and McKenzie said they might add or remove some depending how things go.
“We’re happy to be here in Berlin and the community and town have been great to work with. We’re off to a great start and hope to continue that for many years to come,” Perra said.
The Truck Bar is open Mon.-Thurs., 4-11 p.m., Fri., 4 p.m.-1 a.m., Sat., 1 p.m.-1 a.m. and Sun., 1-8 p.m. They can be found on their website at thetruckbar.com/ or by calling or 860-956-5399.