LENOX — The Select Board has cleared the way for new owners to reopen multiple hospitality industry ventures in the historic downtown village.
The board unanimously approved an all-alcohol license transfer to East Rood Farm Corp., the new owner of The Olde Heritage Tavern at 12 Housatonic St.
A tented outdoor dining area with 30 seats was incorporated into the new license.
East Rood Farm is the corporation formed by the tavern’s purchaser, Ryan Salame. He acquired the popular bar and eatery from 20-year owner John McNinch in a $1.5 million real estate transaction April 15, plus the value of the business for an undisclosed price.
Salame, 28, a Sandisfield native, is a cryptocurrency entrepreneur based in Hong Kong. He is a 2012 graduate of Monument Mountain Regional High School, and has degrees from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Georgetown University in Washington. Last summer, he acquired the Firefly Gastropub, which was scheduled to reopen April 30 on Church Street, after a 14-month hiatus.
His local attorney, Lori Robbins, told the Select Board members that Salame “has always wanted to come back to the Berkshires, own a restaurant and enjoy the lifestyle that we have here.” He plans to return to the area in May, she stated.
“There are no plans for changing the menu or drastically altering anything about these wonderful local restaurants,” Robbins assured the Select Board.
But, she emphasized the inclusion of the outdoor dining area in front of Olde Heritage as part of the transferred license. Special permit decisions from the zoning board issued in 1995 and 2010 allow outdoor dining there.
Selectman Edward Lane welcomed the new owner and stated that “like everybody in town, we’re happy that it’s still going to be the Heritage, as close to it as it can be. I’m very happy for John [McNinch]; he’s worked hard there for years and years.”
“It’s a landmark in town, obviously,” Select Board Chairman Neal Maxymillian added. “John will be missed, and we thank him for all he’s done.”
In other action, the board also approved 5-0 the transfer of an all-alcoholic hotel license for the historic Church Street Inn (formerly the Village Inn) to Lenox Collection LLC, the company formed by managing partners Seth Johnson and Russell Lange.
The site, originally a stagecoach stop built in 1771, includes 32 guest rooms, a restaurant with indoor and outdoor dining, and a lower-level tavern formerly known as Rumpy’s and Poor Richard’s. The inn, reopening May 1 after a one-year shutdown, is one of the oldest buildings in Lenox.
Attorney Ethan Klepetar of Hellman, Shearn and Arienti of Great Barrington, representing the new owners, noted that the company also has purchased two other downtown Lenox inns — the Birchwood and the Rookwood — as investments in the local hospitality industry.
The combined value of the three transactions was $5.5 million, according to documents at the Berkshire Middle Registry of Deeds. Parent company Lenox Hospitality LLC, consisting of silent investors, financed the acquisitions of the real estate and businesses.
In addition to reopening the Church Street Inn as a boutique hotel, the new owners plan to restore the restaurant and the tavern there, Klepetar pointed out.
Welcoming Johnson and Lange, Lane commented that “it’s kind of been like musical chairs around here with the inns in the last couple of months.” Maxymillian said that the board appreciated their investment in the downtown area.