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NEW LONDON

Peter Christian's to reopen

Buyers plan to start up in three months

Peter Christian's Tavern will reopen in about three months, its new owners pledged yesterday after buying the tavern at a foreclosure auction.

The New London restaurant has been closed since February.

Doug Dow, who owns CC Tomatoes at 209 Fisherville Road in Concord, and Daren Sweatt, a Concord general contractor, purchased the tavern's building, equipment and name for $465,000 yesterday. The parcel has a total appraised value of $730,100, according to town records.

They said they plan to resurrect the restaurant under its old name and continue renting out the seven apartment units in the roughly 110-year-old building, 195 Main St. in downtown New London.

"It's iconic. Everybody knows it as Peter Christian's Tavern," said Dow, who grew up in New London. "You go anywhere in the country, people who have been through New Hampshire know Peter Christian's Tavern."

The tavern opened July 20, 1975, and its last day of operation was Feb. 11. Owner Russell McDonough, who was in a serious car accident last December, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in April, for himself as well as for his two companies, PMF Corp. and TKR LLC.

Claremont Savings Bank, which held the mortgage on the restaurant, put the building up for auction, along with Mascoma Savings Bank, another of the restaurant's creditors, which placed a lien on the property in March.

Yesterday afternoon's auction drew about 50 people to the tavern's parking lot, many former employees or residents interested in the outcome.

Fiona Petersen of Andover, who worked at the tavern for two decades, came out of "nostalgia," she said, as well as "the hope that someone will buy it and put Peter Christian's back in business."

Sherwood Moody, the president and CEO of Claremont Savings Bank, initially bid $475,000 for the restaurant.

But when it became clear that Dow and Sweatt, who appeared to be the only other bidders, were reluctant to top the bank's bid, auctioneer Jim St. Jean of Manchester halted the auction and acted as a mediator for talks between the potential buyers and officials from the banks.

Eventually, St. Jean restarted the auction, Dow and Sweatt bid $465,000 and the price was accepted. The parties have 45 days to close the sale, St. Jean said.

Moody, Dow and Sweatt declined to describe the negotiations in detail.

"It was a very unusual auction," Dow said, but "the result, I think, everyone's happy with."

Included in the sale was everything except the restaurant's liquor and countertops, St. Jean said.

That means Dow and Sweatt get kitchen equipment, leftover jars of Peter Christian's Original Mustard Sauce and any intellectual property, including the name "Peter Christian's Tavern."

They also likely get the recipe for the locally famous honey mustard, which McDonough described as "the best damn mustard in the world" while testifying under oath in May at a bankruptcy meeting in Manchester.

Sweatt said he plans to operate the seven rental apartments above the tavern, and Dow will run the restaurant.

An independent gift shop that occupied a second commercial unit in the building has expressed interest in moving back if the restaurant starts up again, Dow said.

Dow said the restaurant will probably re-open in about three months.

"There will be some changes to the menu, but it will be the same tavern fare as before," he said.

Sweatt said the large turnout for the auction shows "people care" about the tavern.

Dow was drawn to the business by "the name, what it means to the community," he said. "It was invaluable to a lot of people, and a lot of people were hurt when it closed."

Town Administrator Jessie Levine called news that the tavern would rise again "fabulous. We'll look forward to having the restaurant re-open in town."

Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com.

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