Because his father, Edward Harrison, 78, recently suffered a second stroke, and his mother, Helen Harrison, who is in her 70s, has also had health issues, Harrison said he needed to find a job with more regular hours so that he could prioritize his parents’ care.
Hootie’s hours were 3 p.m. to 1 a.m., closing at 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. But Harrison’s day started earlier and went later.
“It’s the late nights that will get to you — sometimes I’ll get home at 4 or 4:30 in the morning and I go in about 11:30,” he said. “It’s a long, long day.”
The hours notwithstanding, Harrison said the work was fulfilling because he created an atmosphere where people of all ages and backgrounds could be comfortable and have a good time.
“The way this bar is, the hometown feel this has, I just love it because it goes from 21-year-old kids to retired and way beyond retired people, to business people, everything, it’s a mix of everyone,” he said. “It’s worth it in the long run because I get to do what I really love to do, which honestly is to have a place here, a local kind of hometown establishment where everyone can come to it and you get to listen to people’s stories and lives every day.”
Previously called Good Times, the bar was a popular spot for social events, said Harrison, who grew in the Pawcatuck.
“As we grew up, this was one of the hot spots to come to for weddings, parties; we had a lot of sports banquets and stuff like that,” he said.
Nine and a half years ago, he bought the place with his business partner at the time, David Cappucci, of North Kingstown. Three years ago he bought out Cappucci and became the full owner.
The name Hootie’s came from a moniker Harrison shared with his older brother, David.
“It’s actually a nickname my brother got when he was younger and passed on to me — it was long before Hootie and the Blowfish,” he laughed. “It’s a story that’s been explained to me three different times and I’m not exactly sure of the real [origin] of it but they gave to him when he was in third or fourth grade and he passed it on to me.”
Harrison said he’s hopeful that someone will buy the place and keep it the way it is.
“We have a few people waiting in the wings who are trying to buy it; I don’t want to see this just fade away and become something else,” he said. “Hopefully whoever the new buyer is coming in, I’ll help with the transition.”
He said he’s looking for a 9-to-5-type job outside of the bar and restaurant business, possibly as an entrepreneur or working for one of the larger local companies.
“A little more sanity, a little better schedule — it will be a lot easier to help out my family, especially with what’s going on with my parents,” he said. “I have a couple of opportunities for a few businesses with friends, and, if not, I will probably look toward Davis- Standard and EB.”
In the meantime, Hootie’s 11 employees have found other positions, which was important, he said.
“The good thing is everybody has another job, everybody’s already taken care of; I let everybody know plenty of time in advance what was going to happen,” he said. “My employees love the place, they’re unhappy to see it go, but they understand.”
One thing that will continue is the bar’s yearly community service through the Jonnycake Center Adoptive Families program that provides gifts and meals at holidays to needy families, Harrison said.
“We picked the two biggest families every year,” he said. “I’ve gotten together with some regulars and friends and we’re going to keep that going.”
Harrison said opening a friendly, neighborhood bar was always on his bucket list — along with learning to fly a helicopter, which he has yet to do — and leaving it behind won’t be easy.
“That’s one thing that’s great about this little hometown bar is that everybody’s so close and if anybody has a problem, everybody’s there to help, it’s one of the best things about this place,” he said. “I will miss it, this is probably one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life; I really wish I could keep it going the way it is, but family is first.”