Duo's new owner has familiar face

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BRATTLEBORO — Duo Restaurant has "a special place" in Jason's Lively's heart.

"The restaurant, it's been a huge success," he said during the Select Board meeting Tuesday, "and I have the opportunity to take it over. And essentially, the restaurant will stay as is and continue being a fixture of the town."

The restaurant at 136 Main St. is in the process of being purchased by Lively, who has worked there and another restaurant by the same name in Denver, Colo., that's run by the current owners. The hope is to close on the deal and finalize the transition later this month, according to a town memo regarding liquor licenses.

The Select Board, acting as local liquor commissioners, approved liquor licenses for Lively to serve alcohol at dinner and brunch. He is a resident of Springfield, Mass., according to the application for the licenses. He said he also managed the bar at the Whetstone Station Restaurant and Brewery in Brattleboro during its first few years.

Lively will be buying the restaurant from Adventure Restaurant Group Inc., which is owned by Stephanie Bonin and her husband Keith Arnold. The space in the Brooks House is leased from Vermilion Master Tenant LLC.

"We couldn't have dreamed of a better person to take the reigns at Duo," Bonin told the Reformer in a text message. "While I will miss the fun of great conversations with everyone from behind the bar, lucky me I get to continue them through my work as executive director of [Downtown Brattleboro Alliance]. My family loves Brattleboro and although Maisie was just getting really good at hosting, we are excited to have more time as a family!"

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Maisie is Bonin and Arnold's 12-year-old daughter. Bonin said their 7-year-old daughter Lily's favorite activity is "doing the silverware roll-ups for The Lounge," the 4 High St. establishment sold to Lively as part of a package deal.

The family opened the businesses in September 2014. They are "thrilled" Lively will be the next owner, Arnold told the Reformer in a text message.

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"We have had a long and great working relationship with Jason that started back when we all lived in Denver," he said. "It is perfect."

Arnold said he will continue to work remotely on Duo in Denver and take on new projects such as coaching a cross-country team at Brattleboro Union High School.

On Tuesday, the Select Board also approved a $27,000 small business assistance program loan for Lively. He is expected to pay it back over five years with a 3 percent interest rate.

Lively will be purchasing assets and the Duo name from Adventure Restaurant Group, according to Dec. 19 meeting minutes for the town's committee that reviews loan applications. The committee unanimously approved a recommendation to provide the loan.

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Lively said the loan would help with initial costs such as payroll, and purchasing food and liquor.

"I will go in as the new owner as well as the bar manager, and I'll be behind the bar again for portions of the week, which kind of helps the financial viability of the restaurant going forward," he said.

Select Board Vice Chairman Tim Wessel said when the restaurant had been up for sale, there had been concern about losing the business as it is "such an anchor to the downtown right on the corner." He said he was thrilled about Lively taking over.

Lively said he appreciates the business loan, describing it as "the only way I would be able to do something that I thought I wouldn't be able to do before."

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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