Loan for new Bellows Falls restaurant in limbo

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BELLOWS FALLS — Town officials are at a deadlock on how much to loan a prospective new restaurant and bar in downtown Bellows Falls.

The Rockingham Select Board voted 2-2, with Chairman Peter Golec and Select Board member Gaetano Putignano voting in favor of the $50,000 loan to the Blue Silo Bistro, and Select Board members Stefan Golec and Ben Masure against the loan. Select Board member Susan Hammond was absent.

Daniel Bacigalupo of Dummerston has rented one of two storefronts in the Rockingham Town Hall and has announced plans to open the Blue Silo Bistro this spring, with hopes of being open in time for Alumni Weekend. But his plans hit a setback with the Select Board's decision.

Bacigalupo, who grew up in Westminster, said Thursday that the full board will take up the loan at an April 30 meeting.

Town Finance Director Shannon Burbela suggested half the requested amount, $25,000, from the town's revolving loan fund. The money in the fund comes from federal grants to local businesses that have been repaid, according to Gary Fox, the town's development director, who presented the Blue Silo loan proposal to the board Tuesday night.

The town's Revolving Loan Fund board reviewed Bacigalupo's request, and according to the minutes of the meeting, questioned the wisdom of the town investing in another downtown restaurant, but ultimately decided the $50,000 was a good bet.

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As Fox told the Select Board, the money Bacigalupo wants to put into the building and equipment would benefit the town, since the town is the landlord. "It's a much different situation," Fox said.

Bacigalupo said the lower amount "is not going to work." At one point he said that he had his investors lined up.

Putignano made the motion to approve a five-year loan at 5.5 percent interest for $50,000, with Peter Golec also supporting the loan. Both men also serve on the revolving loan fund board.

The space, now vacant, has been used most recently by Cafe 7, which went out of business in December when its lease expired. Before that, Valley Cafe had rented the space, and it is still paying off its loan from the revolving loan fund.

Bacigalupo has plans for a 75-seat restaurant, but he told the board the final seating numbers would depend on the determination from the Vermont fire marshal's office, which does inspections and grants occupancy permits.

Bacigalupo declined to comment on whether the reduction in the loan would defeat his restaurant plans, noting the full board will take up his request again on April 30.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com or at 802 254-2311, ext. 154.


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