By Matt Werner/Times Sentinel reporter
— Nearly four months after a fire caused damage to his restaurant, Patrick Mullen proudly opened his doors for an early lunch crowd.
Patrick’s Kitchen and Drinks, 175 S. Main St., began serving customers shortly after 11 a.m. Monday, Oct. 8, just minutes after the restaurant opened.
Zionsville residents Nicki and Mike Bradley are not only some of Patrick’s most loyal customers, they were the first to come into the renovated restaurant.
“We’ve been waiting for it to reopen since it closed,” Nicki said. “We have been checking just about every day. We like the food, the place and the people, and we are excited to be the first ones back in here.”
For Mullen, the past several months have been a challenge.
“I felt that this was more stressful than opening the first time because we weren’t in control of the time-line,” he said. “It was taking so long for not a lot of damage; that’s what was really stressful.”
Mullen said being closed was tough for him but tougher for the staff.
“Our insurance paid for some of the wages, but a lot of income for them came from tips,” he said. “Business-wise, it was the momentum that we feared losing. We kept hoping that we wouldn’t lose our momentum.”
Mullen said there are some new faces to the staff, but several workers did return such as Erika Tyring, who was hired in April as a waitress.
“(After the fire,) I got a job at Hallmark in Carmel,” she said. “I told them right out of the gate that once Patrick was ready they would go on the back burner because this was really my passion.”
Tyring said she was extremely excited to be back at the restaurant.
“It’s kind of half nostalgic and half exciting,” she said. “It’s great to be back and see all the old faces, but we are getting a lot of new people, so that’s exciting.”
Jodi Graham was a long-time customer before becoming a waitress at Patrick’s.
“I’ve worked at restaurants before, but I’ve never been a part of opening one,” she said. “It’s been really interesting to see all the prep work of reopening an established restaurant. I’m kind of on pins and needles thinking if everyone is coming back.”
Another change for Patrick’s was bringing in a new chef, Roger Duran.
“The excitement of opening a new place was what really brought me here,” Duran said. “I really like the freedom and having the liberty to create new items.”
Duran said some changes have been made to the menu, but the lunch menu is still the same.
“We are bringing in some multi-cultural and international flavors,” Mullen said. “We will probably be changing the menus monthly, but we really want to give (Duran) a chance to show off his skills and creativity.”
Mullen said opening the doors for the first time was exciting.
“We have a lot of gratitude for everyone in the community, who helped us out,” he said. “It was really inspiring. I couldn’t go into a business in town without someone asking ‘When are you going to open?’ or ‘Is there anything we can do to help?’ That was really inspiring.”