New owner keeps neighborhood bar feel, adds lunch
The rumors are true! Helga’s is under new ownership, but long-time patrons needn’t worry. According to former law school student and new owner Bryan Connor, “The same friendly neighborhood bar atmosphere will still be here.” And more importantly, no worries about the trivia nights, either — those aren’t going anywhere.
So what makes a young, educated person want to delve into the joys and perils of bar ownership? Connor has been an entrepreneur since he was 16.
“I think it’s a lot of people’s dream to have a bar,” explains Connor. “I was in law school in 2010 and decided it wasn’t for me the first year. Then when I came back to Augusta I bought a landscaping company and I grew that for about six months, and in the meantime I thought owning a bar was something I’d enjoy.”
When Connor heard that Helga’s was on the market, he started coming out on trivia nights to get to know the place.
“I’d been looking for a bar for about a year and when someone told me this one [Helga’s] was for sale I started visiting on trivia nights and I really enjoyed the crowd… a lot of my friends are at MCG so I really got along well with all the patrons. All the conversations I had here were really fun, it was just kind of like a hangout.”
All the changes so far seem to be for the better, although regulars might miss the old “menu,” pieces of different colored construction paper that lined almost every inch of available space behind the bar with handwritten lists and prices. Connoisseurs will be happy to see that popular menu items like corn dogs, bacon cheese fries and pizza rolls (deep fried, of course), are still on the menu, but Connor has also added a few things like a grilled chicken plate and a barbecue sandwich.
Regulars probably won’t miss the carpet, recently thrown out, or the upper part of the trellis that divided the bar down the center, making it especially difficult for those sitting in the back to properly participate in trivia. Those are both gone, opening up the small space and getting rid of a lot of the stale cigarette smoke smell in the process.
The changes weren’t always without challenges, however, like cleaning the place up, for example.
“It was a little less than a disaster,” says Connor. “We spent about 70 hours just in the kitchen.”
Aside from getting rid of decades of grime, Connor has other plans to improve Helga’s. “I think we add a new friendly, younger vibe to the place. It’s a dive bar, but now it’s going to be a clean dive bar,” he says. “We’re going to offer some more healthy menu choices, maybe some grilled chicken here and a new salad or two — We’re starting to do lunch so we’ll be open 11:30 a.m. to close, Monday through Saturday. We have new drink specials every day — and then happy hour is from 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 at night… and that’s separate from our nightly specials.”
There will still be trivia on Thursdays and Saturdays, but Connor is working hard to fill the bar on other nights as well.
“There are things I want to do to fill up some of the more dead nights, like Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,” he says. “I’ve started doing a pint night on Mondays so hopefully that will catch on.”
Other than that, it is business as usual at Helga’s. It’s still the little neighborhood bar we all know and love.
“We’re really friendly and really appreciate the patrons,” says Connor. “ This is how I make a living so I want to make everyone feel comfortable here… like a big family.”
Helga’s Pub & Grille
2015 Central Avenue, Augusta
Monday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-close
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