Once Around the City: Out with the Bear, in with the bull

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Lettering on the former- Black Bear Saloon stage door in South Norwalk has been scraped off.

NORWALK, Conn. – Add the Black Bear Saloon to the list of SoNo sites gone dark. The once-popular watering hole at 80 Washington St. cashed out a month ago, a few weeks ahead of SoNo Caffeine, whose closing touched off a debate about just what is going on in Norwalk’s dine and drink center.

Not to worry: the Bear, which had a nine-year run, may be gone, but Johnny Utah’s is on the way.

Johnny Utah’s South Norwalk is coming in with a country vibe, a comfort food menu of American and Southwestern treats, and a big black animal of its own – a mechanical bull.

To get an idea of the atmosphere and the menu, check out the Johnny Utah’s NYC website. The Manhattan version is at 25 W. 51st St.

You can also try the local version’s Facebook page, which is currently carrying this help-wanted message:

“If you’re a cowboy boot wearin’, shot or seven of whiskey takin’, country music listenin’, bull ridin junkie – then you should become part of our team! We’re still looking for Connecticut’s BEST crew! Come on down between 12-6 mon-fri and introduce yourself!”

FYI, they are looking for bartenders, wait staff, shot girls, security, DJ’s, hosts and promotional assistants.

Happy bull riding!

NEF: A little here, a little there…

The Norwalk Education Foundation (NEF) is spreading some money around via mini-grants for various projects.

Brien McMahon High School students taking AP (Advanced Placement) English (Rhetorical Writing) will be taking some risks, according to an NEF press release. Their teacher, Danielle Brown, is challenging the students to do persuasive presentations a la Shark Tank.

These teenage “entrepreneurs” will face a panel of “sharks” in their quest to gain funding for their ideas. The catch is the funding must go toward enhancing an organization at Brien McMahon and must have enduring value. The funding will come from the Norwalk Education Foundation’s Classroom Innovation fund.

In addition to Brien McMahon’s AP English proposal, NEF will also provide funding to Norwalk High School’s new Broadcast Journalism class, taught by Kyle Seaburg. In his proposal, he says, “Starting from scratch we have built a studio and begun to broadcast to the school. I was able to acquire a substantial grant in order to fund the bulk of what we needed to get started. However, there are still some items that are needed to help us become more efficient as a production team. I am asking for a teleprompter system that will help the students with the anchor portion of our broadcasts.”

This is the first time all the grant recipients are from Norwalk High School and Brien McMahon High School. Other grant awards are for drawing figurines and Shakespeare costumes at Brien McMahon High School and materials for the journalism program at Norwalk High School.

The Norwalk Education Foundation funds classroom innovation as part of its Teacher Effectiveness initiative. NEF believes that teacher quality is the single most important factor in cultivating an excellent school system, the release said. Each year, NEF awards teachers mini grants averaging $500, which will engage and inspire kids. The awards are made possible by a $3,000 grant from the Fairfield County Community Foundation.

Datto Inc. gets state tax break to expand in Norwalk

Datto Inc. is investing in a new global headquarters in Norwalk, according to an emailed announcement by state Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) and Gov. Dannel Malloy.

The State Bond Commission on Friday voted to approve $6 million in state funding for Datto’s expansion project, which will cost an estimated total of $15 million. The state funding, consisting of a low-interest loan and a grant-in-aid, will be used for construction, leasehold improvements and the purchase of machinery and equipment. Datto plans to expand in its current space at the Merritt 7 office park and retain or create at least 250 jobs for Connecticut residents over the next two years, and anticipates hiring a minimum of 100 high-wage employees.

Datto will receive a loan of $5 million at an interest rate of 1 percent for a term of 10 years, according to the announcement. Principal payments will be deferred for the first three years. The company is eligible for $2.5 million in loan forgiveness if it retains 150 full-time jobs and creates 100 full-time jobs within two years. Additional forgiveness is possible if the company reaches certain job milestones. If Datto creates a total of 250 new jobs within three years, the company will qualify for a grant of $1 million. The grant grows to $2 million if the company creates a total of 350 new jobs within five years. DECD will also provide a $5,000 job training grant for Datto’s first 200 new hires.

Datto is a leading vendor of hybrid cloud-based backup, disaster recovery and business continuity solutions, providing technology and support to more than 5,000 managed service providers throughout the world, the announcement said.

Datto is ranked 38 on Inc. Magazine’s 31st annual “500,” and, in September, was recognized as the fastest growing technology company in Connecticut at the annual Marcum Tech Top 40 Awards. Datto announced in September 2013 that it has raised $25 million in its first round of venture capital financing.

OK, folks, let’s clean it up

Ernie Dumas flagged us down Monday in a parking lot off Connecticut Avenue to let us know that a cleaner South Norwalk is one the way.

When? Saturday, April 26 – that’s when Dumas and David Shockley, the SoNo Alliance and Keep Norwalk Beautiful plan to mobilize the neighborhood for Community Clean-Up Day in conjunction with Earth Day.

Participants should meet at 8:30 a.m. in Ryan Park. From 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. According to the flyer, “You can help by organizing a group of neighbors, friends, employees, youth or church members to come out and clean up around your block.”

For more information or to volunteer, contact Dumas at (203) 943-6550 or [email protected]; or Shockley at (203) 854-7810 or [email protected] no later than Thursday, April 17.




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