Pub Mania – Santa and elves rock around the clock for charity


The Cody James Gang takes the stage at Patrick’s Pub and Eatery during the Pub Mania event Thursday evening.  (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun


Santa and his elves rocked around the clock Thursday and Friday at Patrick’s Pub & Eatery, raising money for The Greater Lakes Region Children’s Auction.
This was the ninth annual Pub Mania event, in which 31 teams of 24 people raise funds throughout the year and bring their donations to a challenge in which they sit on bar stools for 24 hours, or one hour for each person.
Representing the Laconia Country Club’s 19th Hole team was club General Manager Charles Wheeler in full Santa Claus attire, a Citron and cranberry juice at hand.
“I’m having only one drink because I have to drive the sleigh home,” he said Thursday evening, as the music blared and the elves partied.
“It’s a fantastic cause. There are a lot of great people, and with a Santa Claus outfit, everybody likes you.”
Pub co-owner Allan Beetle was nearby, wearing a referee’s shirt and presiding over the fun. He took the stage to announce winners of various contests and to encourage the packed house to break last year’s total of $276,267 in charitable contributions.
In all, the Children’s Auction raised and distributed more than $400,000 last year to fill emergent needs for food, clothing and gifts over the holiday period.
The auction, now in its 36th year, is being televised on MetroCast cable television channels 12 and 25, online at, and is being broadcast on FM radio at 104.9 and 101.5 through today. People phone in or go online to bid on donated items.
The tally of how much was raised at Pub Mania was to be announced at 11 a.m. Saturday during the auction.
Beetle said the success of the pub event has amazed him.
“We never knew we would have this level of success,” he said.
Pub Mania includes 14 hours of live music.
Organizing the event, working with the team captains and getting other advance work completed can be all consuming.
“I’m able to stay grounded by thinking of all the good this does for the community,” Beetle said.
There’s a karaoke contest, lip synching and dancing. In the wee hours, people show up in their pajamas.
“Around 4 a.m., things tend to get a little quieter,” he said.
His advice for staying up 24 hours:
“Just try to keep going and having fun. You’ve got to stay busy. If you slow down, 10 minutes can seem like an hour.”
The auction has grown to become a major source of funds for local charities and organizations across Central New Hampshire.
In addition to smaller organizations and families that are helped, annual contributions are given to many community-based organizations. These include the Boys & Girls Club of the Lakes Region, Laconia Police Relief Association, HealthFirst Family Care of Franklin, Salvation Army, Lakes Region Child Care Services, Mrs. Santa Fund-Alton, St. Vincent de Paul, Tapply-Thompson Community Center in Bristol, and the Tilton-Northfield-Sanbornton Santa Fund.


One of Santa’s elves dances for her team during Pub Mania at Patrick’s Pub and Eatery Thursday evening. The Children’s Auction continues through Saturday at 1 p.m. Bid online at The final tally will be published in Tuesday’s Laconia Daily Sun. (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

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The Fusion Team of Rhonda Reed, Kevin and Shannon Buttermore get recognized for Kevin and his elf’s dance moves during the early evening hours of Pub Mania.  (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

$125,000 affordable housing grant aids Franklin project


FRANKLIN — The Franklin Light & Power Mill affordable housing project got a boost from TD Charitable Foundation’s Housing for Everyone grant competition.

Rosemary M. Heard, the president and chief executive officer of CATCH Neighborhood Housing, developer of the project, said, “This grant award is an incredible recognition for CATCH and the impact we have had on New Hampshire communities. We are so grateful for the continued support of the TD Charitable Foundation and this development in particular. We simply could not achieve what we’ve been able to over the years without generous partners like TD Charitable Foundation and, together, we are committed to continuing our mission of creating communities where every person is confident of a home.”

The Franklin Light & Power Mill project is creating 45 affordable housing apartments in an old mill building in downtown Franklin. The building conversion is expected to be completed this month.

TD Charitable Foundation’s Housing for Everyone Grant Competition is an annual program to support affordable housing organizations along the East Coast.

Key to success

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Karen Bassett and Ben Bullerwell, co-owners and managers of Wayfarer Coffee Roasters in Laconia, work a shift. (Leah Willingham/Laconia Daily Sun)

 It takes a good staff to make it in business today


The Mug restaurant is an undeniable landmark in Center Harbor.

The homey tavern with the fireplace, built-in arcade and customers’ personalized mugs hanging above the bar, will be celebrating 50 years of business in 2018.

But owner Paul Ursillo said he might not open the same restaurant today.

Restaurants in the Lakes Region are having trouble finding and keeping staff. Ursillo said the last five to 10 years have been particularly challenging.

“It just seems to get more difficult as time goes on,” Ursillo said.

Ursillo and his wife, Amy Elfline, found this out firsthand when they opened another restaurant in Center Harbor, The Bay, in 2012. It had long been Elfline’s dream to own a gourmet restaurant, but staffing woes were one reason that Ursillo and Elfline closed The Bay for good last month.

“It was sad to walk away from it,” Ursillo said.

Staffing is an ongoing issue in New Hampshire for local businesses — particularly in the restaurant industry — as young people leave the state and move elsewhere.This is especially so in the Lakes Region, which relies on seasonal employees.

Reuben Bassett is the co-owner of Burrito Me in Laconia and Plymouth, as well as Wayfarer Coffee Roasters in downtown Laconia. In just two-and-a-half years, Bassett’s youngest business, Wayfarer, is averaging more than 200 transactions a day. They’re doing very well, he said.

Their biggest challenge: staffing.

Wayfarer is still young, and Bassett’s wife, Karen, and co-owner Ben Bullerwell are working at the coffee and waffle shop full-time as managers.

For now, Bassett and Bullerwell are happy running the show. But they do worry about a time when they might want to pass the managing torch to someone else. Both the Bassetts and Bullerwell have young children.

“I don’t know if we’re going to want to be making lattes all day forever,” Karen Bassett said.

Reuben Bassett said good management is what enabled the Burrito Me restaurants to be successful. And they’ve been lucky so far with the staff at all three businesses, he said.

“Right now, we’ve got good staff at each of the places,” he said. “But that could change in a heartbeat.”

Ursillo noted that staffing deficits are not just a problem in the restaurant industry, but in all small businesses arenas — especially the Lakes Region, because it’s a seasonal area.

“Everyone is looking for help at the same time,” Ursillo said.

Ursillo cited a gap in the millennial workforce, and college students leaving the Lakes Region to live elsewhere or take summer courses, as a contributing factor to the lack of applicants businesses are receiving.

Reuben Bassett said a lot of these challenges might be unique to the demographics of New Hampshire, which tends to comprise older professionals.

“If someone can take an office job, and make the same amount of money as working in a restaurant, but have benefits, then they’re going to go to that,” he said.

Reuben Bassett said having reliable staff is a large part of what makes a business successful.

“When you have good people, it’s really good,” he said. “When you don’t, it’s a struggle.”

Both owners of Wayfarer and The Mug have learned to be creative to promote their businesses. Both say keen attention to making fresh, homemade food has helped a lot.

At Wayfarer, it’s coffee and waffles, and at The Mug, it’s hand-crafted burgers and pizza.

“We take great pains to make good, quality food,” Reuben Bassett said.

Both restaurants also consider themselves to be community gathering places. At The Mug, local families come in for birthday parties and anniversaries, and sports teams celebrate there after games. Wayfarer has been renting out its space private events, and working with VIBE, an organization working to revitalize Laconia downtown, as well as promoting work by local artisans.

An owner’s commitment to work is another huge boon for a business. Ursillo said he spends 40 to 50 hours working at The Mug during the winter, and 60 to 70 hours in the summer.

“You can't be an absentee owner,” Ursillo said. “You have to be willing to work.”

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Staffer Jaqui Menken tends to the bar at The Mug restaurant in Center Harbor. (Leah Willingham/Laconia Daily Sun)