MANCHESTER, NH – When you walk into City Hall Pub there’s no mistaking that this place wants to be your new favorite hang out.
Owner Tim Baines and business partner Bob Scribner have poured themselves into reimagining the former Cheddar & Rye. There are still sandwiches and whisky, and the dark wood-themed decor also remains, but it’s been revamped and enhanced with a City-Hall theme, largely because the city’s signature clock tower looms large just across the street.
It was a natural.
But also it could be that Baines, a former elected official and son of former Mayor Bob Baines – who cut his teeth on city politics and loves to keep up with it all – has created a space that riffs on the City Hall theme because it is the one constant in a city of change.
The interior decor doubles as an homage to the hallowed halls across the street with art for the walls from the Manchester Historic Association and Antiques on Elm.
“I loved Cheddar & Rye – the space was beautiful and (former owner) Liu Vaine did so much by hand to create a certain vibe. It was always my go-to place when I just wanted to hang out,” says Baines, who says the doors to his newest endeavor open June 8 at 11 a.m.
Early on Baines envisioned a place where people could congregate after meetings or during campaign season. It’s just a brisk walk from the steps of City Hall, and can seat about 90 customers indoors with its combination of low- and high-top tables, booths, bar seating and a long “community table” in the center.
There will also be outdoor seating, weather permitting, and there are four TVs, with several beers on tap plus a cocktail list, and a tight menu of light fare that’s focused on sandwiches, says Baines.
In an effort to move along some of the old whisky inventory, customers can choose from any bottle in the front corner for $8 a pour, and Baines expects there to be live jazz a few nights a week.
“We’ll make changes and adjust as we find our stride,” Baines says.
“I wanted it to be a cool, comfy vibe with a different flavor from what already exists, to be our own thing. And yet there’s an excitement to be in this area of Hanover and Elm. We complement the block, which offers something for everybody,” Baines said.
City Hall Pub will be open seven days a week, and sandwiches are center stage, with a “build your own” sandwich option and vegan and vegetarian offerings as well.
This is the newest in the Southern New Hampshire Hospitality Group, which in addition to City Hall Pub, now includes Mint, McGarvey’s, Wild Rover, and Elm House of Pizza.
“Customers will see some familiar faces from Mint, Elm HOP and the Rover, including our two managing partners, Kevin Johansen and Christina Maskell,” says Baines.
Johansen has served as General Manager at Mint and Maskell was instrumental in turning things around at the Wild Rover – both of them are what Baines considers “rising stars” in the hospitality world. It’s the way many restaurateurs get their start – including Baines – who have the work ethic and interest level needed to start at the bottom and work their way up and out on their own someday.
As for Mint, Baines’ flagship eatery, no decisions have been made following a fire in April that caused heavy damage to the kitchen.
“I’m in touch with most of the staff and they’re being compensated, but the insurance process is messy and drawn out. In the meantime we’ve been able to create opportunities for a good majority of people from Mint at our other places,” Baines said. “As for the future of Mint, I’d say look for further announcements coming soon.”
Much of what’s been made possible through the Southern New Hampshire Hospitality Group, including sharing staff of about 120 across all their eateries, started out as a bond of friendship between two business owners.
“When COVID hit we Bob and I stayed active and put a lot of energy into growing and creating opportunities,” Baines says.
“This is the next level of collaboration, bringing in Kevin and Tina as managing partners. With their skills and experience, they are leaders in the industry and set a high standard,” Baines said. “They are both about 10 years younger than Bob and I, so it’s been great to see them grow ad learn and have this opportunity, and to see what they make of it in the years ahead.”
City Hall Pub at a glance
- OPEN: 7 Days a week
- HOURS: Mon. – Thurs. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday: 11 a.m to 1 a.m.’ Saturday 3 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Sunday: 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.
- KITCHEN HOURS: Open until 10 p.m. nightly
- DON’T MISS: The gorgonzola garlic bread
- STAY FOR THE: 32-ounce mugs and $8 limited-time whisky pours
- RESERVATIONS: Not taking them, for now; it’s first-come, first-serve.
- IF YOU SEE BOB BAINES THERE: Ask him to play something on the piano for you.
- TAKE-OUT: Yes
- LOCATION: 8 Hanover Street (corner of Hanover and Elm streets)