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Burning Love 

click to enlarge food43_firefighter_100.jpg

Imagine a bar that's more like a burnt-out shell of a room, with fire helmets for lampshades and a vintage Seagrave fire truck cut in half to make the bar. Beer taps come out of the truck's pump panels. Red lights flash and sirens wail. And if you know what a Halligan bar is, you're an instant part of the gang. (It's a tool on a fire truck.) This isn't somebody's pipe dream -- it's the coming together of a long-held mission, and Shawn Gregory, a 17-year veteran of the Henrico Fire Department, is driving that dream straight into the tiny café that used to be the Kitchen Table, at 3 N. 17th St. in Shockoe Bottom.

The Halligan Bar & Grill is Gregory's tribute to all of the firefighters working in the region. "There's no place where we gather and help each other and tell stories," he says of the area's 6,000 firefighters. "This is an extension of my love for the brotherhood and sisterhood around the area. It's intimate and not corporate, a hometown pub that I hope will be popular with other folks and citizens too. The room is all an illusion — smoke-stained walls, beams that have been charred, the ceiling painted black, the same burn pattern we're used to working with every day. I'm not trying to create a nice, sunshiny thing with plants. This is the environment we're used to operating in, a cool complement to what we do."

Of course, firehouse food is legendary, and Henrico firefighter Eric Densley will serve his southern Virginia barbecue, chicken and "the wholesome, rib-sticking meals you'd get in a fire station," Gregory says. Hook & Ladder beer from Silver Spring, Md., will be on tap; some proceeds will go to the Central Virginia Burn Camp Foundation. To accommodate the various shifts and schedules of firefighters, the grill will be open for lunch and dinner daily, starting next month. With only 35 seats, those bellying up to the diamond-plate running board will feel the closeness of their calling — and a fire hose set into the bar top will be one more familiar image in this home away from the firehouse. S



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