After fire, Newbridge Inn sees a surge of support from Merrick-Bellmore community


Bellmore and Merrick residents were met with a shocking sight on April 15, when smoke poured out of Newbridge Inn, the popular bar and restaurant on Jerusalem Avenue, on the border of the hamlets. An electrical problem in the building’s basement ignited an early morning fire that left extensive damage.

Within days, the community banded together to show Newbridge Inn’s staff support with a successful fundraiser, repaying the eatery for its decades of hospitality.

A GoFundMe campaign, “Support The Newbridge Inn Staff — Post Fire Impact,” had raised over $24,000 as the Herald went to press this week. The money will help pay the salaries of the staff as the building is cleaned and repaired.

The fundraiser was organized by Steven Arriaga, president of the Wenshaw Park Civic Association, a nonprofit based in Merrick that is one of the oldest civic organizations in Nassau County.

“Everyone wanted to do something,” Arriaga said. “All I did was take one step forward and then share it. Then that’s where the community happened.”

There were over 200 donations, ranging from $5 to $1,000, according to Arriaga.

“It’s everyone giving a little — that’s what makes it so beautiful,” he said. “It reminds me of what civic pride is all about, and the power community has when we come together as one.”

The support will be desperately needed, because the damage has disrupted the livelihoods of the Newbridge Inn staff.

“It’s scary, because Covid never left us — not yet — the restaurant and the bar industry especially,” bartender Stacy Grieco said. “It was devastating, because it just didn’t hit one person, or just the staff.”

The staff and regular patrons are a tightly knit group, bartender Francesca Liguori said. “It’s a second home for most of us,” she said. “It really was devastating. This is our family. But it’s also a beautiful thing, having everyone come together and be there for each other and support each other.”

“Financially, it’s tough — that’s how I make my living, and that’s how a lot of people make their living,” said the inn’s owner, Gary Francke. “So that’s why I was glad when they originally came to me for a fundraiser. I was a little skeptical, but when they said it would go to my employees, I said absolutely.”

“He’s very loyal to his staff,” bartender Brian Webeck said of Francke. “So the first thing he was worried about was making sure his employees got paid. He wasn’t even worried about himself.”

The past two and a half weeks have brought a wide range of emotions for Francke. “It’s huge how fast and how everything came together and how much they donated,” Francke said of the GoFundMe contributors. “It was overwhelming, between my family, friends and customers. That’s something that I’ve never really experienced before. It’s nice to know that in your time of need, you know they’ll come together and help you out.”

Newbridge Inn has helped raise funds for a number of community events benefiting schools and first responders. “I donate all the time to any other fundraisers that are around town, and I guess it comes back to you in your time of need,” Francke said. “And it’s a nice feeling.”

Now, staff members are helping clean the bar and prepare it for reconstruction. Francke’s goal is to get the restaurant repaired and back in operation as fast as possible. It’s too early to determine when that might be, he said — the electrical system needs to be replaced, and there were burst pipes as well as lost inventory.

In the meantime, staff members expressed gratitude to the Bellmore and Merrick communities for their loyalty and support, and from Francke there was an additional message, during his interview with the Herald: “We’ll be back.”

Those who are interested in contributing to the GoFundMe campaign can go to