The North Country Saloon will close its doors on April 20 after about two years serving up drinks and comfort food from its U.S. 7 location. The town plans to purchase the property from building owner Sotos Papaseraphim to free space for its hourglass road project slated for 2021, town manager Don Turner said.
“I feel terrible … like I’m abandoning my customers here,” saloon owner Beverly Bronson said. “But it’s time to move on.”
Bronson’s decision was prompted, in part, by the hourglass project that seeks to create a safer roadway at the junction of Middle Road, Railroad Street and U.S. 7 by razing three commercial buildings and constructing new roadways plus a green space in their place. However, the end of her lease on April 30 was also a catalyst for looking elsewhere, she said. Bronson plans to open a new restaurant in St. Albans at the former home of the Wooden Nickel restaurant.
“I have been searching in different spots to try to go somewhere else,” Bronson said. “It’s just [there are] very limited options in the town of Milton.”
Victor Sinadinoski, the director of planning and economic development, worked with Bronson to find a different, local space. But town use regulations and seller stipulations proved too challenging, he said.
“It is sad,” Sinadinoski said. “She’s been a fixture here and she has a clientele.”
Last week, FuYam Buffet on U.S. 7 also closed its doors, leaving Milton with about seven sit-down restaurants once the saloon leaves, according to Sinadinoski. Both he and Turner agreed it’s concerning to have so few food venues in town.
“It’s a challenge,” Turner said. “We have a community of almost 12,000 people but most people, when they go to dine it’s usually out of town.”
Likewise, many Miltonians leave town for work, which deprives restaurants of a lunch crowd, Sinadinoski said. He added there is also a lack of diversity among the town’s food offerings.
Sinadinoski and Turner are hopeful workforce development and a walkable town center –created by the hourglass and other upcoming streetscape projects– will attract more people to both dine and shop locally.
“We’re going to continue from a town government level to be proactive in helping and trying to look for developers who may be able to bring that type of business here,” Turner said.
“We understand people have different goals … and fully understand Beverly’s decision to move to St. Albans and buy her building,” he continued. “But we would’ve loved to have had her stay.”
Alongside food and drink sales, the saloon fundraised for various local causes via its pull tab tickets. Most recently, the Milton Yellow Jacket Boosters received over $200,000 from the ticket proceeds to help finance a new athletic field press box and install a sound system in the high school auditorium, according to Bronson. She will continue to fundraise for local causes through her final days in business.
“The most important thing to me is helping the community wherever I live or work,” she said, adding she plans to continue helping local causes from her new restaurant.
Bronson’s new space on Lake Street is larger than the saloon, boasting 6,500 square feet. She intends to rent out a portion of the building to a commercial business, while running the restaurant and bar in the remaining area.
The new restaurant will likely be called Bronson’s Landing; though Bronson has challenged her loyal clients to devise a better name. The business will be an upscale version of the saloon, she said, adding she’d like it to feature a salad bar, steak and seafood alongside her current homemade wares. Bronson hopes to run specials like $2 Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap daily and host whole belly clam dinners on Friday nights.
Back in Milton, town officials and Papaseraphim have created a memorandum outlining a path to purchase and sale for the building that houses the saloon. The town is currently conducting an appraisal after which it hopes to craft a contract. Turner would like to see a business occupy the space in the interim period before the hourglass project construction begins.
“We are constantly doing what we can to work with people who express interest in doing restaurants,” he said. “We believe the community needs it. We understand it’s challenging.”