MANCHESTER, NH – Tonight’s the night for Chuck Kalantzis – the Aldermanic public safety committee will consider his request to close a small section of Lowell Street, between Elm and Church streets, for Sunday block parties at Penuche’s Music Hall.
If successful, Kalantzis promises great live acoustic music and a party atmosphere between 2:30 and 11 p.m. starting July 22 through Oct. 15. He tried to persuade the city last year, but got some pushback from his business neighbors. This year Kalantzis says he made the rounds and got everyone’s blessing. Now it’s up to the committee, which convenes Tuesday night. He’s hoping for a unanimous thumbs up.
Shutting down Lowell Street to traffic is a carry-over idea from when Penuche’s was on Hanover Street – Kalantzis says he’s the guy who got the city to close off Hanover to foot traffic in the summers for nine years, creating an open-air community feeling, with lots of foot traffic.
He wants to recreate that kind of magic on Lowell, and maybe even someday, on Elm Street.
Since moving his business around the corner 16 months ago to the expansive multi-level restaurant/bar at 1087 Elm St., Kalantzis has been in overdrive, working hard to figure out the right mix of music and menu to bring in the crowd.
“My food is the best – all fresh, nothing frozen, we make everything right here,” Kalantzis says. “People need to come and try our food – and our mudslides are the best,” Kalantzis says.
You don’t have to take his word for it – watch the video below – filmed when I happened to be standing outside the restaurant as a reluctant customer from out of town was just walking past Penuche’s. Kalantzis started “running his mouth – in a good way.” The playful banter convinced her to sit down and try a mudslide.
In the end, she gave him kudos for his customer service and power of persuasion, and also big props for the mudslide:
Kalantzis is by all accounts a colorful guy – and not just because he has a year-round tan. He is loud and direct, and if he has a problem, you’ll know it.
But he also has a heart as big as his personality: Every Thanksgiving Kalantzis personally cooks enough turkey and trimmings to feed upwards of 500 people. “My mother taught me to give,” he says.
He has also been vocal about his battles with the city – over the use of his sidewalk space, wanting to close the side street, the insistence that he install giant screens on his giant sliding windows, and – most recently – he’s had to field another loud music complaint from a neighbor, which resulted in police being called to his business during dinner hour. He was mortified.
But Kalantzis has learned a few things over the years, including how to work things out through proper channels. He went to Ward 3 Alderman Tim Baines, a fellow restaurant owner and downtown neighbor, and they planned a meeting with the mayor and new Chief of Police Carlo Capano.
“It went good. I told them my story. By the end, I had the mayor laughing so hard, she was crying,” Kalantzis says. “Even the new Chief, I don’t think he liked me much, going in, but I think he gets me now. And we look like brothers.”