Owners, The Draft Choice
Owners, The Draft Choice
Anne Bernhard’s background as a biology professor is not the typical path to owning a sports bar. Nonetheless, when Anne’s husband, Beto Zuniga, retired from his job, they decided the time was right for a new venture. At the same time, a sports bar in Downtown New London became available and Anne and her husband took the leap.
“We had always thought it might be fun to own a bar or a brewery,” said Anne.
So, in February 2020, Anne and Beto opened The Draft Choice, which specializes in sports and local CT craft beers and cocktails. Beto runs the day-to-day operations, as Anne continues to teach at Connecticut College.
After taking Academy for Small Business, a business planning course offered through WBDC and Liberty Bank, Anne and Beto became aware of the programs and services offered to small businesses by WBDC. Both became more involved with WBDC, with Beto taking classes on marketing and QuickBooks, while Anne attended a business start-up class.
Through their work with WBDC, they heard about grants available through the organization, decided to apply, and were awarded a grant in September 2022. They used the money to pay for NFL Sunday ticket, which allows them to showcase all NFL games - not limited to the local area - at their bar. In addition, they have started working with a marketing consultant to promote this new offering.
Just a few weeks later, Anne and Beto have already seen an uptick in business on Sundays, and they are still working on marketing strategies for the future.
“One of the things that really helped us was to have an appointment with an advisor to meet and talk about our ideas,” Anne said. “We had some other things we were going to throw into the application, and she told us to keep it really focused.”
According to Anne, the most rewarding thing about receiving the grant is feeling that other people think their business is worth investing in and being recognized for the hard work they put into their business.
WBDC is currently accepting applications for the New London/WBDC Small Business Grant Program in partnership with the City of New London. The program is offering grants of up to $10,000 to qualified small businesses located in New London, Connecticut.
Anne appreciates the creative culture of New London and is glad that many regulars that live in the neighborhood love to support local businesses. She strongly encourages other New London business owners to apply for a grant from WBDC.
“It’s like the lottery. You don’t win unless you buy a ticket! You’re not going to get the grant unless you apply for it. It’s hard to imagine a business wouldn’t have a reason to apply, there’s bound to be something you can use the money for that will help grow your business.”