Canoe Club in Hanover Closes

By John Lippman

Valley News Business Writer

Published: 09-14-2018 9:34 AM

Hanover — Following weeks of rumors that the business was on shaky ground, the owners of Canoe Club confirmed on Monday that the Hanover restaurant and bar is closing effective Tuesday.

The decision comes a year after Canoe Club was sold by its former longtime owner John Chapin to a partnership that included the restaurant’s bartender, two people on the faculty at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business and a Hanover real estate agent.

In recent weeks, in signs of potential trouble, the Canoe Club cutback its lunchtime hours to two days a week and the restaurant’s recently hired chef departed.

“We are in the process of notifying stakeholders, the landlord and the staff that (Canoe Club) will be closed indefinitely,” Curtis Welling, a co-owner, said on Monday.

One of the reasons Welling cited for the closing was a construction project now underway on the building where the restaurant occupies the first floor. Welling said the work has disrupted business, making things difficult for both staff and customers.

The owners of the building on South Main Street in Hanover are adding offices and parking spaces on the backside of the building.

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As a result, both deliveries and handicap access to the restaurant have been directed to the front street side of the building, creating an unsightly and uninviting appearance. Parking spaces on the street in front are blocked off.

“In light of the construction and other circumstances, we are simply not able to provide the restaurant experience that is competitive and that we think our customers deserve,” Welling said in an interview.

Welling, a senior fellow with Tuck’s Center for Business, Government and Society, together with Daniella Reichstetter, executive director of Tuck’s Center for Entrepreneurship and an adjunct professor at the school, Canoe Club’s bartender Daniel Levitt and Liam McCarthy, a Hanover real estate agent, bought the restaurant from Chapin last summer.

“We are exploring all options,” Welling said when asked if the owners would seek to reopen in the future or if they would sell.

The construction includes a new four-story, 17,000-square-foot addition on the back side of 23 South Main Street, known as the Bridgman Building, which also houses The Dartmouth Co-op. The $3.6 million project, to be built on what had been a parking lot, will include an automated parking structure.

Chapin, a onetime press secretary to former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland, opened Canoe Club in 2003 in the space formerly occupied by Mexican restaurant Mojo’s Bistro. Chapin successfully lobbied for a license for live music — which the town had lacked such an establishment for years — and Canoe Club offered live acoustic music six nights a week.

The new owners announced at the time of their purchase last year that they planned “to continue the best traditions of the Canoe Club while simultaneously adding new elements to attract additional fresh clientele.”

In December, Canoe Club announced that Adam Coulter, formerly chef at the Norwich Inn and Lyme Inn, had joined the kitchen as executive chef. Coulter, however, recently moved to Lui Lui in West Lebanon.

Coulter did not return a message seeking comment.

But among the changes the new owners introduced were to eliminate live music, traditionally one of the Canoe Club’s primary draws in addition to a reliable menu.

In the year since the sale, the restaurant received some harsh treatment on TripAdvisor, the self-posting review website, where several writers commented negatively about their experience, calling it “sad,” “disappointed” and “the end of our dining relationship!”

The closing of Canoe Club is the second well-known Upper Valley restaurant to close this summer. The family-style Lyme bistro, Stella’s Italian Kitchen and Market, shut its doors and the building and business was put up for sale last month by owners Bob and Denby Coyle.

Coyle, in an interview, said that he and his wife have been in the restaurant business in the Upper Valley for 26 years — they previously owned and operated the Bagel Basement in Hanover and Lebanon — and “I’m not as young as I used to be.”

He attributed Stella’s closing to the challenge in keeping the restaurant reliably staffed — an issue all restaurants are facing as unemployment dips to historic lows — that had forced them to cut back hours.

“There’s never just one reason,” Coyle said, expressing gratitude for the “incredible support” the restaurant enjoyed by its fans.

“The only constant in life is change and personally (Stella’s) had run its course,” he said.

John Lippman can be reached at