Contoocook Covered Bridge Restaurant closing as owner retires

  • Bartender and waitress Sofia Locke helps out while on break from school and is sad that the Contoocook Covered Bridge Restaurant is closing down this month. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Contoocook Covered Bridge Restaurant owner Donna Walter says it’™s time to close down the operation due to the lease running out in February. Walter held a New Year’™s celebration for employees and she plans to retire after the restaurant closes after Jan. 7. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • The owner of the building is looking into opening a new restaurant in place of the Contoocook Covered Bridge Restaurant. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Bartender and waitress Sofia Locke takes a lunch order on Thursday. Locke helps out while on break from school.

Monitor staff
Published: 1/3/2022 2:56:29 PM

After 20 years, Contoocook Covered Bridge Restaurant is closing as its owner retires, but the site should be reborn this summer as a new restaurant.

The decision to close the restaurant overlooking the Contoocook Railroad covered bridge stems from several factors, including losing its lease. It just ended full service this weekend and will have a limited menu with discounts through Friday, Jan. 7.

“Many people are really sad. A lot of people come to me, they say ‘we love you, it’s my favorite,’” said owner Donna Walter. “I will miss the customers. But OK, it’s time to retire and enjoy life.”

Walter, with husband Russ, opened up the restaurant in March 2002 in an empty building that had previously been a restaurant. She had worked in both Chinese and American restaurants before that, and oversaw the creation of menus that included everything from Hong Kong triple lo mein to chicken broccoli Alfredo to barbecue pork ribs.

Contoocook Covered Bridge Restaurant thrived despite some bumps, including a 2013 Hepatitis A scare that saw it voluntarily shut for a week, and the turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic that has been brutal for the industry.

“We don’t make money, we lose a little money – but with government money we survive,” Walter said of the past two years. “Without that, we would have closed a year ago.”

The building was purchased in 2015 by Brian Cressy, with the two-year lease and four-year extension running out soon. He plans to turn it into what he calls Reed’s Tavern, a name playing from the building’s construction in 1900 as Reed’s Drug Store.

“This has been a dream of mine for about 11 years,” Cressy said. “I’ve loved the staff and food at the Covered Bridge for years, but I’m very excited to be bringing something new and fresh to the town.”

Contoocook Chamber of Commerce President Meredith Lee echoed that sentiment Monday.

“From a chamber of commerce point of view, we’re super-excited that this space is going to remain a place we can all gather,” she said. “Kudos to Donna for staying with it during the pandemic … and we can’t wait to see what Brian Cressy does.”

Editor’s note: This story was changed to reflect owner Donna Walter’s name. Her last name was incorrect in the original version of the story.

David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog, as well as moderator of Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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