LENOX — The gathering spot “where everyone knows your name” — often compared to Cheers in the classic TV sitcom by the same name — is changing hands in about a month.
After 21 years running the Olde Heritage Tavern, proprietor John McNinch is selling the Housatonic Street building and the business.
The new owner is Ryan Salame, 27, a Sandisfield native who bought the long-term lease for Firefly Gastropub and Catering Co. from Laura Shack last fall. Firefly, which has been closed for exactly one year, after the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, is expected to reopen in the spring.
McNinch assured Heritage customers that, under Salame’s ownership and with hands-on management by Jane Blanchard, a longtime Firefly supervisor, “they want to keep it pretty much the same. They’re keeping all the staff.”
McNinch, a former selectman and current town moderator, told The Eagle on Thursday that he wasn’t looking to sell his tavern, “but the opportunity came up. A lot of people have asked me if it’s for sale, and I always said, ‘Everything can be for sale.’ ”
He declined to disclose the transaction price, which he expects will become signed and sealed around April 15, but he added, “I’m happy and I’m smiling.”
But, he noted, “after 21 years, I don’t know what it’s like to have weekends off and to take vacations.”
McNinch emphasized that his decision to sell now had absolutely nothing to do with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We did better than most and stayed strong throughout, despite 25 percent and then 40 percent capacity limits,” he said. “Our loyal patrons supported us.”
He said he is looking to start a new business in Lenox with his son, Tucker. There are no details yet, he said, “but I’m not buying another restaurant.”
Salame, who lives and works in Hong Kong, was not immediately reachable for comment. He manages Alameda Research there, a leading cryptocurrency trading firm. The company handles over $70 million in digital assets and trades about $1 billion per day, according to his LinkedIn profile.
In September, he told The Eagle that he always has wanted to own restaurants in his native Berkshires, pointing out that he started as a dishwasher at the former Martin’s Restaurant in Great Barrington. He emphasized that the “faces, soul and vibe of Firefly will remain very much the same,” as Shack had built up during 30 years of ownership. The spot formerly was called the Roseborough Grille.
Blanchard, a Pittsfield resident and former 14-year employee of the Lenox school district, also will continue to oversee Firefly when it reopens, probably next month.
In a brief conversation at the restaurant as interior renovations continue, she confirmed that the Heritage will remain as it has been — a magnet for locals and visitors to mingle and enjoy pub food and beverages.
Blanchard pointed out that the two restaurants will not be competing against one another under the same ownership, since Firefly emphasizes live music on the weekends and a more formal, higher-priced menu.
McNinch acknowledged that the transition will be bittersweet and that he will miss “the customers and employees who are what make it the Heritage. There are people working here who have been there so long, from the time they started as young kids. They became the essence of the Heritage.”