The Cardinal’s Nest was hardly expected to reopen after shuttering its doors last winter break, amid rumors of its former owner’s mysterious disappearance. Yet, on Thursday, August 4, after undergoing renovations and a change in ownership, the bar and bistro reopened as simply “The Nest” and will offer karaoke, beer pong, and free delivery to student dorms.
Co-owner Tim Curtin claims to know the college scene well, having put his five children through college. He purchased The Nest in order to be closer to his children, and said that he explored several locations near other college campuses before settling on the Wesleyan campus.
“We liked the location,” Curtin said. “We had some interest in purchasing a bar but we were always concerned about the drinking and driving element, so we focused on college kids being close to the campus where students can walk here.”
Curtin decided to drop the school mascot from the name because he wanted customers to be aware of the change in ownership, and because he heard that the old Cardinal’s Nest was usually referred to by students in its abbreviated form anyway.
Besides aesthetic changes to the bar and dining area, a new lounge—furnished with leather sofas, a coffee table, and a big screen TV—has been installed. Customers also have access to free Wi-Fi.
“We’re going to run it a lot differently,” Curtin said. “We have a full time chef with substantial experience in developing a menu. We’ve got an experienced bar staff. We’ve expanded the deck substantially, so we will be able to accommodate a much larger crowd.”
According to The Nest’s Head Chef Doug Holland, who used to work at Nikita’s on Main Street, the menu includes bar and comfort foods such as chicken fingers, with an emphasis on gourmet pizza. Curtin said the menu items are not as heavy as the ones previously offered by the Cardinal’s Nest.
While he anticipates the lunch and early dinner crowd to consist of mostly Middletown residents, Curtin has set his sights squarely on the student demographic for the evening
and late night.
“We’re going to do karaoke, and live music outdoors,” he said. “We’ve got a spot out there for beer pong, which I hear is pretty popular.”
The newly expanded deck includes a kegerator to dispense beer and a dining area shaded under a canopy of grapevines.
To further integrate The Nest with the University, Curtin plans to hire students and has plans to implement ideas including holding tastings of beer from local breweries, and offering free deliveries to student dorms.
“As I understand it, Middletown closes a little bit early,” he said. “From my experience with college students, they study early in the evening and free up late in the evening, so we’re going to have free delivery up to midnight.”
Because of the rapid turnover rate of businesses at the 129 Church St. location—before the Cardinal’s Nest’s closure, a café, a pizzeria, and a restaurant have each folded since 2004—some students have called the site inauspicious at best. However, Curtin believes that he has the right product.
“I don’t know about [the location] being cursed,” Curtin said. “We’re more optimistic than that. If you offer the right product, you’ll attract the right people.”