Future of Blind Pig pub and eatery in Athol uncertain

  • Brian Martin, left, and Cathy Goodbrake, managers of the Blind Pig, met with the Athol Selectboard Tuesday. ATHOL DAILY NEWS/GREG VINE

Published: 1/8/2020 10:16:49 PM
Modified: 1/8/2020 10:16:13 PM

ATHOL – Town Manager Shaun Suhoski said a couple of weeks ago he hoped to attract some restaurants to downtown Athol to help revitalize the town’s traditional retail core. Now, unfortunately, the future of a once-popular Exchange Street pub and eatery appears uncertain at best.

Partners Cathy Goodbrake and Brian Martin appeared before the Selectboard Tuesday night to seek some guidance on how possibly to save the Blind Pig.

In a post-meeting interview, Goodbrake said she and Martin have been managing the establishment with an eye toward purchasing it from current owner David Vautour. As time went on, however, she said she and her partner learned the business was $15,000 in debt and in need of substantial physical upgrades.

To make matters worse, the liquor license attached to the Blind Pig expired Dec. 31.

“We’re really not even sure where to start at this point, or what to say,” Goodbrake told the board. “We obviously do not want to see the business close. We’ve been having tremendous difficulties. We probably should have just opened it as a bar, without the kitchen, to start off with, because we had inherited so much of the old manager’s debt. We pretty much spent our life savings to pay that off and try to run the kitchen. The owner of the business wants us to transfer the liquor license into our name and transfer the LLC into our name. However, we’re having difficulty with propane, electric, heat – everything. The owner of the building isn’t willing to help us in any way. He said if we walk away, he’s just going to close it down, and that’s it.”

Goodbrake added that she and Martin have applied for grant monies and a loan in hopes of saving the business. To keep its doors open, the partners were also hoping the board could extend the Blind Pig’s liquor license.

“We need more time to come up with some funds at this point,” she said. “If you guys gave us the license tonight, we couldn’t open anyway. It would probably be at least another two months before we could re-open. My intention would be to open up under another name.”

“Unfortunately, right now,” said board Chair Rebecca Bialecki, “your licenses for food and the alcohol license have completely expired. So, at this point you have to start from scratch. You have to really start with a brand new license, and that means going through all of those steps. You have to get your vendors in place, all of your utilities, all of that kind of stuff has to be in place first – before you come back to us with a new name and a new LLC.”

“I can tell you,” Selectboard member Lee Chauvette said, “as a former business owner in this community, I don’t like to see people going through the things that you’re going through. I went through it personally with my diner, and I made the difficult decision to sell it and get out from underneath it, because when you start getting into household income it doesn’t make sense.

“But, the chair is 100 percent correct. As of right now, the Blind Pig does not have a liquor license. It goes back in the pool. That gives us three available licenses. If three businesses come into the Town Hall next week and apply, and they’re ready, those three licenses would go to those three businesses.”

Chauvette also pointed out that in order to re-open, the bar/restaurant would need inspections by the Fire Department, Board of Health, and building inspector. In addition, Goodbrake and Martin would again have to go before the Selectboard to secure a common victual license. Finally, the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission would conduct an investigation to determine if a new liquor license should be granted.

“I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you may not have known this,” said Chauvette, raising another issue. “But you have repeatedly had entertainment down there and never had an entertainment license. This board issues an entertainment license as well, and I’ve never seen you on a list for approval.

“It sounds like you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you, and I personally want to wish you the best.”

Speaking after the meeting, Goodbrake and Martin said they would have to review their options realistically before further committing to re-opening the business.

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