New managers 'respect' inn's past

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WILMINGTON — The Vermont House will reopen under the management of faces familiar to the community.

The Nutmeg Inn owners Paul and Shelley Lockyear will be leasing the space with an option to purchase.

"We really want people to know that we respect and appreciate what the building was before," Shelley said. "It's changed so much over the years. We're not able to take it back to what it was before but want to give it that sense of welcoming it had before. People really loved it."

The plan is to open the 11 rooms in the hotel on West Main Street to the public at the end of this month. A wine and beer bar downstairs is expected to open in mid-December.

The Vermont House had last been leased by the Hermitage Club, which had several of its properties shut down by the Vermont Department of Taxes in March due to lack of tax payments. The building is owned by Lorista Holdings LLC, a company based out of Connecticut that is suing the Hermitage for not making lease payments.

"I think it's a very positive thing for the town," Paul said of their plans for the business. "I think we can start the rebuilding process."

Wilmington Zoning Administrator Craig Ohlson described the project as "a good thing."

"It will be nice to have more activity in that building," he said.

Shelley called Wilmington "such a lovely town."

"And it's so sad to see these few little black holes that we have," she said. "And so having these properties up and running again is so important for the economic growth of the town."

Shelley reported getting positive feedback from residents and visitors who heard about the project.

The Vermont House's name will stay.

"It's an old tradition — why mess around with it?" Paul said. "We will want to keep that heritage."

During the interview Tuesday, he was waiting on some workers to arrive at the Vermont House. The building's exterior will be cleaned, painted and redecorated.

Paul said he and Shelley are looking to bring the Vermont House up to the standards of The Nutmeg, which also is located on West Main Street. They will need approval from the town's Development Review Board before making the new bar. A hearing is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 17.

Bars are allowed as a conditional use in the village district, Ohlson said. He does not anticipate the project will encounter any issues in getting DRB approval.

"I think it's going to go over really well," he said.

The Vermont House will serve foods prepared from outside the building, such as cheese boards.

"They're not going to have a restaurant per say but they have to serve some sort of food," Ohlson said, referring to a state law requiring establishments to have food if they have alcohol.

Ohlson said the business will be open when others located downtown are closed.

"I think they're thinking about seven days a week, which is cool," he added.

Shelley said the bar will be a place to stop by on the way to other restaurants or establishments.

"We want it to sort of fit in with what's already there," she said.

Shelley said she is interested in hearing from people who have pictures or memories of what the Vermont House looked like in the past.

This month marks the fourth year the Lockyears have owned The Nutmeg. Paul called it a "fun" experience.

"We get the most amazing people there," he said. "It's a really fun place. We enjoy it."

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

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