When Sean Fairbairn and Tom Leneghan open their fourth Barrio
location in Cleveland Heights in early spring, the restaurant known for its tacos, guacamole and margaritas will be a perfect fit with the Cedar Fairmount District’s vibrant nightlife scene.
“Our big thing is that we don’t want to compete with anyone. We want to complete that neighborhood,” says Barrio director of operations Jake Hawley. “We feel we will bring more people into the area. It’s just going to help everyone.”
Additionally, Hawley says the area is rife with Barrio’s target audience. “That neighborhood, there’s so much going on over there,” he says. “That little corner has so much going on. There are a couple of colleges in close proximity, and the kids love our food. We’re open until 2 a.m. every day, so we look for spots that can sustain the late-night crowd.”
The new location is the restaurant’s first foray into the east side, says Hawley, and the former Mad Greek space at 2466 Fairmount meets their needs. “We’ve wanted to expand to the east side,” he says. “That place was just perfect.”
The Mad Greek had been in business since 1976 when it closed permanently last September.
But it’s taking some work to get the 3,800 square feet up to Barrio standards. The team took over the lease six months ago and has been working ever since on an overhaul. “It was in pretty rough shape, shockingly bad,” says Hawley. “We were planning on doing some demolition, but it ended up being a complete gut job.”
Leneghan serves as the general contractor for all of the Barrio locations and is overseeing the Cleveland Heights project from start to finish.
The first task was to remove some walls. Originally, the entry lobby and bar were quite cramped. “We really opened up the space,” says Hawley. “We blew out the kitchen and created an octagonal bar in the middle of the space.”
The bar and open kitchen allow for better traffic flow and speedier service, says Hawley, adding that the kitchen is right by the bar, allowing for easy access for floor staff – not to mention room for the kitchen staff to work.
“Our model is to have a kitchen that looks out,” explains Hawley. “Bar backs and food runners don’t have to go in the kitchen at all. It’s hectic enough as it is.”
The main dining room and bar area combined will seat up to 150 people. Additionally, 16 additional tables will provide seating for up to 60 people on the back patio, where Hawley says an outdoor bar is planned.
Like the other Barrio locations in Tremont, Lakewood and Downtown, the décor will have a Day of the Dead theme, painted by Cleveland artist Michael “Mac” McNamara
. While Hawley doesn’t yet know the story depicted in the new location’s mural, he promises it will be fantastic.
“We don’t get the story until the artist in finished,” Hawley admits. “But Mac is a very talented welder and painter.” Hawley does know that one of the painted skeletons resembles the image of LeBron James’ famous chalk cloud clap.
While Hawley says the mural is almost finished and the walk-in coolers arrived two weeks ago, there are just a few more finishing touches that need to be done before Barrio opens in the spring.
“You walk in and it looks like we could open soon,” says Hawley. “We really moved on this project and we’ve had a full crew working every day, five days a week. There’s a lot going on.”
Barrio will be open daily from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Thursday; and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday through Sunday. The Cleveland Heights location will employ 50 to 60 people.