Changes are coming to the Springfield Hilton, the second tallest building in Springfield and a cornerstone of the central revitalization area. The retirement of manager Barry Brady, a Lee High School graduate and a prominent member of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, coincides with the introduction of Houlihan's restaurant where the Blue Parrot Lounge once ruled.
Brady left on June 3, and Houlihan's is opening this fall.
"This is the first major renovation of the restaurant in 25 years. It's now being gutted to the tune of just under $2 million," said James Hagerty, area manager from Coakley Williams, the property management company that owns the Hilton.
The company hopes a major restaurant chain like Houlihan's, which has 86 outlets nationwide, will be a competitor on the Springfield restaurant scene. Hagerty said that Coakley Williams is confident Houlihan's will hold its own against TGI Friday’s, Bennigan’s and Bertucci's, which surround Springfield Mall, but also Mike's American Grill, a premier restaurant in Springfield.
"We intend to compete with Mike's American Grille," Hagerty said.
Nancy-jo Manney, the Chamber executive director, is confident that Hilton's relationship with the Chamber will continue. Brady was an active member, and the Blue Parrot was listed by the Chamber on their members list.
"This is the first time it's been anything other than the Blue Parrot," Manney said. "It's a name that's nationally known."
REPLACING BRADY is another story.
"I don't think you can fill Barry's shoes. The new manager, we hope, will want to walk in the same direction," Manney said.
According to Hagerty, the new manager of the Hilton will be David Melugin, with Steven Weiss serving as the manager of Houlihan's. Weiss comes from J. Gilbert’s restaurant in McLean.
On Monday, July 12, Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee) brought Brady's retirement before the Board of Supervisors to request Board recognition. Barry was a Springfield resident since 1960 and at the Hilton since 1990.
Kauffman read a prepared statement:
"Barry is a longtime active supporter of the greater Springfield business and residential community. Under his management, the Hilton Springfield has showcased the vitality of Springfield business — especially during the Mixing Bowl construction. Barry is a past president of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce and remains active in that organization."
FROM THE OUTSIDE of the new Houlihan's, little appears to have changed, barring the new sign. Inside, restaurant patrons will encounter a total of 8,000 square feet of space, with the addition of 108 seats over the previous establishment. Also, an executive board room will be added next to the restaurant, as well as a stage, dance floor and second entrance.
"We're building a new entrance out in the parking lot," said Hagerty. "It should be fantastic. There will now be a men’s and ladies restroom." The old restaurant had one entrance from the lobby, and the restrooms were in the hotel lobby as well.