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Work underway to convert historic church to 'Holy Grail of the Lakes'

LACONIA — David and Maureen Kennedy are no strangers to the concept of an Irish pub. After all, Maureen was raised in a family that operated 13 of them in New York. When it came time for them to open their own establishment, they wanted to do something a little different: an Irish restaurant where the food is taken as seriously as the drinks. The Kennedys opened their first restaurant in Epping in 2008, purchasing a deconsecrated church and converting it to an eatery they named "The Holy Grail", a restaurant that has since become a destination for diners that  many miles for a visit.

This year, the Kennedys, along with business partner Khalid Farid, are hoping to replicate their success by opening a second restaurant in downtown Laconia.

Laconia wasn't their first choice for their second location. Other sites in Methuen, Mass. and Dover were considered, but both of those deals fell through when the Catholic Diocese objected to the sale of its former churches to a buyer that wanted to turn them into eateries. So, they refined their search to include only former churches of non-Catholic congregations. As fortune would have it, this renewed search for real estate coincided with the Evangelical Baptist Church of Laconia was moving from its 150 year-old building on Veterans Square to a larger facility in Lakeport. Upon further examination, David said Laconia seemed like the perfect spot. It's far enough away from Epping to not compete for the same diners, yet close enough that he could drive from one to the other in an emergency. And with attractions such as the lakes, skiing and Meadowbrook, David sees lots of potential diners passing through the city.

"People come here who have disposable income, they want to go out someplace nice," he said. "It's a prime spot, it has everything I would incorporate into my business plan if I could come up with the perfect spot. Plus, it has a church for sale."

They closed on sale of the property earlier this month.

The Holy Grail team also found a city that was enthusiastic about the development of the property. City Hall offices gave the restaurant the fast-track treatment for permits and applications. The City Council even agreed to help pay for the extension of a water main to the building so that the restaurant could install sprinklers, as required by code. With the permits in hand and the real estate transaction concluded, all that's left is the construction work to convert the church, built in 1863, to the Lakes Region's newest restaurant, the Holy Grail of the Lakes. The work began this week, and David estimates the project to take about seven months. He plans to preserve as much of the building's historic character as possible and expects to be able to seat around 175 diners.

As the name implies, Laconia's restaurant will strongly reflect the Epping establishment. David said the Holy Grail of the Lakes menu will be "Ninety-five percent the same as the Epping menu," with the remaining five percent reserved to feature local and seasonal ingredients. Diners should expect to find a selection of sandwiches, salads, pasta, steak and seafood dishes. The menu will also offer more traditional Irish fare, such as bangers and colcannon, fish & chips, shepherd's pie, Scotch eggs, and boiled dinner, either vegetarian or with corned beef. David said his cooks look for ways to incorporate Jameson whiskey, cider or beer in the cooking, such as their Guinness-marinated steak tips.

Speaking of beer, The Holy Grail of the Lakes figures to be one of the best places in the Lakes Region to drain a pint. The Epping restaurant has 26 draft beers on tap and David said there will be more than that in Laconia, as well as a few casks. None of those taps will be used to pour Budweiser, Miller or Coors products. Instead, The Holy Grail of the Lakes will boast a combination of Old World favorites — Bass, Guinness, Harp and Smithwick's — along with high-quality local brews.

When the Holy Grail of the Lakes opens, David hopes that local residents will continue to congregate at the building as they have since 1863, albeit for a more Earthly reason. "A church has always been part of the community, they've already been there, they know where it is," he said. "It will be a destination place."

 

 CAPTION for HOLY GRAIL CHURCH in AA: Construction has begun to transform the former Evangelical Baptist Church in Laconia's Veterans Square to The Holy Grail of the Lakes, an Irish restaurant. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Adam Drapcho)

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 February 2014 12:44

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Cryans enjoys almost 2 to 1 advantage in funds raised

CONCORD — Democrat Michael Cryans of Hanover continues to raise more money from more contributors than Republican Joe Kenney of Wakefield, his rival for the Executive Council in District 1, according to the latest report of receipts and expenditures filed with the New Hampshire Secretary of State.

Cryans, who has served as Grafton County Commissioner since 1997, and Kenney, a retired colonel in the United States Marine Corps who spent 14 years in the Legislature and was the Republican nominee for governor in 2008, are vying to succeed the late Ray Burton in a special election.

Since January 29, Cryans collected $38,747 from some 325 contributors, almost three times more than the $13,756 that Kenney raised from 60 donors.

Cryans has raised $108,901 from more than 740 contributors, more than 90-percent of them residents of New Hampshire, since he announced his candidacy in November. So far he has spent $28,973, leaving him with $79,927 for the last three weeks of the campaign.

Altogether Kenney has collected $69,471 from some 150 donors, of which loans from the candidate and his wife represent $40,000 and in-kind contributions account for another $8,200. Unlike Cryans who had no primary opponent, Kenney spent $21,739 running a victorious primary campaign against Christopher Boothby of Meredith and has since spent another $3,207 for a total of $24,946, which leaves him with a balance of $44,525.

District 1 sprawls across more than two-thirds of the land area of the state, reaches into seven of its ten counties — Coos, Carroll, Grafton, Belknap, Strafford, Sullivan and Merrimack — and includes four of its 13 cites — Laconia, Berlin Claremont and Lebanon — 109 of its 221 towns and most of its unincorporated places.

The election will be held on Tuesday, March 11, town meeting day across the state.

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 February 2014 02:07

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Barnstead police connect brothers to burglaries

BARNSTEAD — Two brothers have been charged with two counts each of criminal trespass and one count each of receiving stolen property after an alert citizen reported some suspicious activity to the police yesterday.

Acting Chief Joseph McDowell said the Terince Belanger, 27 of Farmington and Kyle Belanger, 25 of Manchester were apprehended by a N.H. State Police sergeant and his officers on Pitman Road.

McDowell said items consistent with those reported stolen from area vehicles were found by police in their pickup truck.

He said Kyle Belanger also had an outstanding electronic bench warrant from Concord District Court.

McDowell said the Belanger's are well known to police in both Alton and Barnstead and the investigation into their recent activities continues. He said both will likely face additional charges.

McDowell added that he really appreciated the efforts of the people of Barnstead who are watching their neighborhoods for suspicious activity and reporting it to police when they see it.

"We need to work together to keep this community safe," he said, noting the Pitman Road caller had noticed a suspicious truck on his road and had called them.

He said the Belanger brothers were released on personal recognizance bail and both have been given court dates in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division.

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 February 2014 02:04

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Barnstead man said to have breached bail conditions by contacting minor girl 4 times

LACONIA — A former Barnstead man was ordered held on $10,000 cash bail yesterday for failing to appearing in Belknap County Superior Court on Tuesday and for four counts of breach of bail.

Tyler Root, 32, was indicted by a Belknap County grand jury in August of 2013 for statutory rape for allegedly having sex with a girl who was older than 13 and less than 16.

Investigating officers learned Root had allegedly been in touch with the victim four times since his being indicted in August, with three of those contacts being in January of 2014, by examining the cell phone the girl was using that belonged to her mother.

In January, the girl's mother in January reported she had information that Root was in the area, possibly on Merrimac Street

Affidavits said city police learned from a different woman that Root has met with the girl while he was on Merrimac Street visiting a friend.

A Laconia Police officer spoke with Root on the phone and he denied having any contact with the girl. At that point, police applied for and secured an arrest warrant.

Sometime yesterday, police arrested Root — it is unclear if he turned himself in or if police found him in Laconia — and he appeared by video in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday.

He is scheduled to appear in the Belknap County Superior Court today for matters relating to his felony rape charge.

The four bail violations are still in the Circuit Court's jurisdiction.

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 February 2014 01:59

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