Blind Pig to reopen in February under new management

  • The Blind Pig will reopen in February under new management. Pictured from left to right: manager Brian Martin, chef Ethan Peterson and manager Cathy Goodbrake. photo/Sarah Robertson

  • An antique safe that no one knows how to open still sits behind the bar at the Blind Pig, which is set to reopen in early February. —Sarah Robertson

Staff Writer
Published: 1/25/2019 9:00:38 PM

ATHOL — Behind the bar at the Blind Pig there is an antique safe that nobody knows how to open. It’s always been there — since long before the new managers, Cathy Goodbrake and Brian Martin, started renovations to re-open in February — and will stay there as it weighs several hundred pounds.

“I’ve always loved this bar. I’m friends with all the regulars, I stay in touch with them,” Cathy said. “That’s why I know once these people find out we’re opening it’s going to be a busy day.”

Cathy worked as a bartender at the Blind Pig back in 2014, left for a few years, then returned months before the bar closed this past November.

“We’re bringing it back to its former glory,” Brian said.

For Cathy and Brian, investing in the bar is an investment in a community that shares their vision for a vibrant downtown. The couple hopes to ride the wave of revitalization they’re seeing in the area. Since buying their first home in Athol over a year ago, Cathy and Brian have already seen their property value go up by $20,000, a good sign of things to come.

“It seems like things are getting better around here,” Cathy said.

They have spent countless hours getting the bar ready for opening day. Dozens of kegs in the basement had to be returned to the brewers, the kitchen cleaned and inspected, and all appropriate food, beverage and entertainment licenses secured. Fortunately, the couple did inherit something other than a messy kitchen: lots of booze.

“We have too good of a selection, that’s the problem,” Brian said.

“I haven’t even heard of some of the stuff that we’ve got back there,” Cathy added.

The couple is still waiting on confirmation that the liquor license, currently under the building owner’s name, will transfer to them so they can legally serve alcohol. Once that happens, they can officially open, hopefully sometime in early February.

“If we just do a good job, treat people well and the food tastes good, people are going to talk and it’s going to get spread,” Cathy said. “There’s no other place in this whole area that’s like this.”

They said it’s hard to find anywhere in Athol that serves food after 9 p.m., so the Blind Pig will give people a place to go for a beer and late night snack.

“I liked the feel of the bar,” Cathy said. “You walk in, everybody says hi, everybody knows you, everybody is buying each other drinks.”

“I am so happy,” said Ethan Peterson, the chef for the Blind Pig since 2013. “These two know what they’re doing and I’m excited to come back and keep the kitchen the way it should be.”

According to Ethan, there will be some minor changes to the menu with an emphasis on quality. He and the managers want to showcase a seasonal menu with warm soups in the winter and cool dishes in the summer using local ingredients.

“He is the Blind Pig,” said Brian said of Ethan’s commitment to the kitchen. “If we get rid of him we might as well close the kitchen.”

Ethan said the Blind Pig used to get produce from the Farm School in Orange, and hopes to rekindle relationships like that with local producers. They also plan to install a pizza oven for fresh homemade pizzas.

“Everything is going to be fresh, we’re not going to buy a bunch of frozen food and leave them in a freezer forever until somebody buys them,” Brian said. “It’s not going to be like that again.”

The pub will be staffed by four to five people, most of them friends, with Brian working full-time and Cathy bartending in the evenings after working as a medical assistant during the day. Right now, David Veautour still owns the Blind Pig, but if business picks up Cathy and Brian want to buy the building and run the whole operation in two years time.

“It’s been here so long, people know it.” said Jon “Hound” Allen, a friend helping with the renovations. “It’s literally part of the community.”

The Blind Pig has a colorful past as a speakeasy during the Prohibition era, when drinking establishments would charge to see an oddity (like a blind pig), then offer a secret, complimentary drink to those who paid. The Cucci family officially opened the bar in 1936 under the name The Royal Pub, but the building itself dates back to 1865, Cathy said.

“The regulars are really trying to be very supportive,” Cathy said. “A lot of people were very upset when the place closed down.”

Over the years different owners have taken the reins but the original wooden bar is still intact. A small plaque that reads “Lefty’s Corner” is set on one end, a relic that perhaps a regular could explain.

“There’s a lot of local people who have left their mark on this place,” Cathy said.

There are a few changes on the horizon, but the new managers want to keep most things the same. They mainly want to earn back customers’ trust after the bar ran on a spotty schedule over the past few months.

“If we’re open until midnight, we’re staying open until midnight,” Cathy said. “We’re not going to close early even if nobody is here.”

The Blind Pig will be open Tuesday through Wednesday from 4 p.m. until 11 p.m., Thursday and Friday until midnight or later, and Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight. Until business picks up the Blind Pig will be closed Sundays and Mondays. If it gets busy enough, the will hire more staff, expand the hours and open for lunch on weekdays.

About half of the pub’s 21 taps will be flowing by opening day with staples like Berkshire Brewing’s Athol Ale, Honest Weight, Mighty Squirrel and, of course, Pabst Blue Ribbon. More taps will be added as business picks up.

Cathy and Brian are already thinking about holding regular events and activities at the Blind Pig. They’re received the live music license, and plan to host trivia nights every other Wednesday and karaoke on Thursdays.

Sarah Robertson can be reached at srobertson@atholdailynews.com.


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