New restaurant takes place of Bennington night spot
BENNINGTON — Kelli Hurley and Kris Callaert are proud of having gotten their new restaurant up and running in a month and a half — using largely local suppliers.
The Dutchman's Tavern opened Monday on Depot Street, at the site of the former JC's Tavern, which closed March 31.
"I just don't like dragging things on if I set my mind to it, and Kelli works the same way ... No sense in lollygagging with it," said Callaert, 43, who has Dutch ancestry, hence the business's name.
The new restaurant and bar wanted to be in place as people came out of hibernation. The owners, Bennington natives and childhood friends, removed the fence around the old tavern's volleyball court, making it visible to passersby. Volleyball games are held Wednesdays and Thursdays, starting at 6 p.m.
They're also building a street-side patio with a fireplace, which should be ready for customers in a couple of weeks.
The restaurant interior, including the bar, has been totally redone, Callaert said. The bar, tables, chairs and floors are made of Vermont hardwood.
Hurley, who is a day older than her business partner, said the majority of their suppliers were from Bennington. They included people who did the renovation work, made the furniture and baker who supplies their desserts.
"It was more expensive, but we were firm with, 'If the community supports us, we're gonna support the community,'" said Hurley, who lives in Shaftsbury.
Callaert, a resident of Woodford, added: "I'm a strong believer of local first."
The pair, who saw a more bustling Bennington in their younger years, wanted to indirectly and directly contribute to the community's revival. Hurley said the town needs more economic and social activity, such as retail stores, restaurants and family events.
"If we can give out-of-towners or people one more reason not to turn on 279 and bypass Bennington," Callaert said, "that's all we need."
In contrast with JC's Tavern, which built its reputation as a bar and night spot, Callaert said The Dutchman's Tavern wants to create a family atmosphere amid a variety of food offerings. It's open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Sunday.
In the days since the restaurant opened, the menu items that have been some of the most popular apparently include its Irish nachos appetizer, burgers and chicken parmesan dinner.
The support it's given local workers and entrepreneurs seem to already be coming back to them. Hurley said the restaurant is seeing more business than it expected at this early stage, including repeat customers and their fellow Bennington restaurant owners taking a seat at their table.
Tiffany Tan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @tiffgtan at Twitter and 802-447-7567 ext. 122.
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