LACONIA — David and Maureen Kennedy of Hampton, who trace their roots to Tipperrary and Galway respectively, plan to convert the former Evangelical Baptist Church on Veterans Square into a restaurant and pub with a distinctive Celtic flavor.
Kennedy discussed his plans for the building with the city's Technical Review Committee on Wednesday and is scheduled to seek the approval of the Planning Board next month.
Planning Director Shanna Saunders said "we fast tracked this project."
Kennedy said that he expects to close on the purchase of the building from the church next month and anticipates completing the conversion in seven months. "We'd like to catch some of the summer," he said.
In search of larger accommodations, the Evangelical Baptist Church moved to Lakeport after purchasing the former Our Lake of the Lakes building complex from the Roman Catholic Church.
The restaurant will be the Kennedy's second, both housed in churches. The Holy Grail Restaurant and Pub in what what was St. Joseph's Church on Main Street in Epping has twice been chosen as the state's finest Irish pub by New Hampshire Magazine.
Kennedy likened the historic Laconia church — originally constructed at the corner of Church and North Main Streets, in front of the Public Library — to a large split-level ranch house, explaining that a staircase at the entrance leads to an upper and lower level. He said that while he is still in the process of preparing plans he expects the dining room and bar will be on the upper level while a "village setting" with a cafe as its centerpiece would occupy the lower level, which would be lined with he called "faux shops," offering bakery items, packaged foodstuffs and perhaps Irish products. He described the lower level as a space for people to congregate while waiting for a table or enjoying a coffee after dinner.
Kennedy said that he plans to add a second story to a triangular addition at the rear of the building where for the kitchen, offices, utilities and storage. In Epping, he said he was able to provide seating in the choir loft of St. Joseph's Church above the main floor of the dining area and has contemplated adding a mezzanine to the Evangelical Church if the structure will support it.
Because the the building occupies the entire lot, Kennedy said that finding a discreet place for a dumpster has proved his sternest challenge. He said that conversations with neighboring businesses have been encouraging and is confident of resolving the issue.
The menu, like that in Epping, will feature traditional Irish offerings like shepherd's pie, fish and chips, corn beef and cabbage and boiled dinner along side more conventional fare like steak, seafood, pasta and burgers. He said that daily and seasonal specials, using fresh local ingredients, will be served. In Epping, nearly two dozen brands of beer — of course, including Guinness — are on tap.