While the rest of us bitch that downtown Westport virtually shuts down before the sun sets, Bob Le Rose, the owner of Bobby Q’s Barbeque & Grill, and the president of the Downtown Merchant’s Association, is slyly doing something about it, turning his popular rooftop bar into a funky Beer Garden, complete with a thousand twinkling outdoor lights, a newly installed garden and a respectable selection of domestic microbrews.
“We’ve been sitting on this terrific asset for six years now,” says LeRose, about the newly opened Bobby’s Rooftop Beer Garden, a rooftop space that has long been the site for live music, well before Bobby Q’s came to town. Though Bobby Q’s had been using the space for live music and private parties, LeRose said he didn’t fully throw his resources behind it until the town started banging the drum for more nightlife. He says, “When P&Z started loosening up their regulations about outdoor spaces, we thought, “Let’s carve out a place in the community that is totally unique.
“Who else has a rooftop? Nobody. Who else has live music in an outdoor setting like this?” he asks.
Since he opened his popular BBQ joint in the spot that was formerly Onion Alley, a lively pub and downtown institution, LeRose has been serving up a weekly smorgasbord of live music (in addition to slow-cooked pulled pork and ribs) — from Blues bands to Grateful Dead cover bands to visiting headliners. During that time, he saw firsthand how much Fairfield County residents craved a place to hang out, have a beer and hear good music.
“A lot of people wanted a throwback to the days when Westport was full of mom-and-pop venues, and our rooftop has been known for 25 years as a local venue for outdoor live music,” LeRose explains. “We want to bridge the gap between what the downtown used to be like and what it can be like in the future. We’re counting on all the people who’ve been asking for more downtown nightlife to come out and support us.”
Just in time to capitalize the desire for outdoor cocktails, LeRose opened up a spot that is already drawing summer crowds with a full bar, communal tables and a unique garden setting.
The Beer Garden is more than a spot where you can get your groove on; it’s a place to kick back and take in the cool night air under a roof twinkling with festive lights. To create a relaxed ambience that is theme-appropriate, LeRose called on Besty Phillips, the local designer who transformed Westport’s formerly hardscrabble Wakeman Town Farm into a fantasy of shimmering lights for it’s first annual Green Village Initiative fundraiser last fall. At the Beer Garden, she employed festive outdoor lighting, weathered furniture and hand-painted accents for a rustic, farm-like effect.
With the installation of an outdoor garden (LeRose snapped up plants and flowers at the recent Westport Garden Club sale), patrons can kick back in wooden patio chairs and feel like they’re hanging in a friend’s backyard garden.
Choose from 12 frosty microbrews, including Shipyard Brown, IPA, Sierra Nevada Summer and Otter Creek Stovepiper Porter, in the standard 16-oz. or hefty 22-oz sizes (which come with a specially branded stein and a slight discount on refills). There’s also a range of domestic standbys, like Bud’s in aluminum cans, and a full complement of cocktails.
Though Bobby Q’s won’t be serving up barbeque on the roof, LeRose says customers are welcome to buy takeout down in the restaurant and bring it upstairs to enjoy at picnic tables up on the roof.
The beer garden is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 4:30 p.m. to close. On Fridays, a low-key music act will typically perform. On Saturdays, a full band will rock the rooftop until midnight. Music begins at 9 p.m. and you must be 21 years or older to enter. Due to private parties, it’s best to check the website for music schedule and blackout dates.
[Photo courtesy of THEFEAST.com]