Valley News – Underground nightclub planned for downtown

HANOVER – Hanover has never been a city known as a nightlife destination, but an ambitious project currently underway in the basement of Dartmouth’s old bookstore on South Main Street could change that.

Hanover developer Jay Campion is building a nearly 7,000 square foot restaurant and nightclub that will include a venue for music and other artist performances in the basement of the closed bookstore.

Entering from Allen Street, the new facility, named Sawtooth Kitchen, is slated to open early next year, according to Campion and his son, Kieran Campion, who is the company’s chief executive.

“A restaurant with event space for live musical performances is something I have wanted to do for a long time,” said Campion, whose family has been prominent in Hanover’s business and real estate community for generations.

“With the demographics of the city’s students and the people of the Upper Valley enjoying music and art and the bookstore closing, there was finally enough space to do it,” he said. .

Hidden from public view, the cavernous basement, stretching from the early 1900s facade to the old Everything But Anchovies restaurant on Allen Street, was once used as storage and retail space for the bookstore.

The restaurant, kitchen and performance space are the final step in the transformation of the Wimblewood Building, which the Campion family has owned since the 1950s and which once housed the long-dead Hanover Co-op and Campion’s Sporting Goods. from the main street south.

Since the bookstore closed in 2018, Campion has renovated the ground sales areas that now house the My Brigadeiro café, bakery and chocolate factory as well as the Still North bookstore and café. The upper floors are occupied by the administrative offices of the Tuck School of Business in Dartmouth.

A key feature of Sawtooth Kitchen – the name derives from the sawtooth-shaped foundation walls of the building in what will be the kitchen – is the restaurant and food operation where fresh and frozen ready meals will also be available for the kitchen. pickup and delivery to a separate designated entrance in the lane.

Campion also plans that the Commercial Kitchen will produce frozen meals prepared by Sawtooth Kitchen that would be wholesaled and sold locally to places like the Hanover Co-op and other markets.

“Take-out is here to stay,” Campion said of how restaurants originally pivoted to survive during the pandemic, but then found a growing market for take-out and home-delivered meals. . “If you can do it in a unique and quality way, it’s going to create a new trend. ”

But perhaps the most ambitious – and potentially risky – will be the low-rise scene in Sawtooth Kitchen and the 163-seat table that Campion has variously described as a “nightclub,” “cabaret” and “performance space.” which is designed to showcase musicians, stand-place comics, stage performers and writers in front of the audience.

A performance space for live music has been absent from Hanover since Salt Hill Pub and Skinny Pancake, both of which have reserved regional musicians, closed at the start of the pandemic.

Kieran Campion, 44, a 1995 graduate of Hanover High School, Colgate University and the British American Drama Academy, returned to the Upper Valley with this young family, after a career in theater and television. and Chicago-based theater agent, said he expects to tap into contacts in the entertainment industry to schedule the venue.

Young Campion envisions that the concert hall at Sawtooth Kitchen will be more than a place to hear coffee ballads, but will offer a wide range of performance artists.

“We’re going to cover the whole gamut in terms of the performing arts,” said Campion, who recently worked as a theater agent in Chicago. “My ambitious plan is to build a home for the artists of the Haute Vallée, developing our own internal work, as an ensemble company, whether it’s comedy sketches or storytelling, developing creative talents. ”

“Over 20 years in New York and Chicago, I have built a lot of relationships in the business and I can call on them to bring people in from the city, or dub with artists in Dartmouth, or a guest artist doing a master class, playing a play, reading a new work, a cabaret number on Saturday evening, ”he declared.

When it comes to music, Kieran said the area offers a rich selection of artists to book.

“It won’t be a place for another Irish judging group,” he said.

The city of Hanover has already taken a dim view of restaurants that also host live performances, especially when the former canoe club was prevented by the zoning administrator in the early 2000s from offering musical performances in direct because it was not an authorized incidental use.

But the zoning board later reversed the decision, saying the administrator’s interpretation of what is permitted in incidental use was too narrow – “live musical performances are permitted incidental use.” for a property whose primary use is a restaurant, at least when implemented at the level and scope proposed by the plaintiff in this case, ”the 2003 decision read.

Hanover Planning and Zoning Director Robert Houseman said his department had been in contact with the Campions during the authorization process to ensure it complied with zoning ordinances.

“We have spent many hours with Jay to make sure we understand the scope of this project and we believe that the primary use of the proposed restaurant and concert hall is subordinate and incidental to the primary use and therefore permitted,” Houseman said last week.

The Campions said they were in talks with potential chefs to run the kitchen, although they said it was still too early to talk about the menu.

Jay Campion said the kitchen, however, could end up providing the food for Still North Books, which he says will also use the venue’s space for author dedications and book events.

“Honestly, I think it’s going to be a really cool place,” Jay Campion said.

Contact John Lippman at [email protected]

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