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Rindge family restaurant up for auction

RINDGE — After more than 40 years on Route 119 in Rindge, Cyprus Grove Restaurant and Lounge will be auctioned off on Thursday morning.

The Eleftheriou family has been in the restaurant business for more than 60 years, beginning first in Fitchburg, Mass., and then later in Rindge, where they once operated under the name Pine Point Restaurant in East Rindge. But on Thursday, one of the oldest family-owned businesses in the Monadnock region will be sold to the highest bidder.

In a letter to the editor, the family said that while they’ve managed to survive a series of ups and downs, the past few years have been especially difficult and some economic challenges too great to overcome. In doing so, the family also blames the town of Rindge for unnecessary scrutiny after the property was seized for back taxes in 2009, and in 2010 when they were forced to install an updated fire alarm system that the business could ill afford.

Rindge Tax Collector Carol Donovan said Monday the restaurant has yet to pay the first half of its 2012 taxes and still owes the town more than $5,000.

The restaurant has also forfeited its corporation status, according to the N.H. Secretary of State’s website.

Town Administrator Carlotta Lilback Pini confirmed Monday that the town seized the property by tax deed in 2009, but said she could not comment on how the process was carried out other than to say the Police Department was involved. “They followed the protocol that they deemed necessary to do so,” Pini said.

The Ledger-Transcript reported in the July 30, 2009, edition that the restaurant was seized by the town that month because of more than $20,000 in unpaid taxes and fees. But owner Peter Eleftheriou quickly got the business back by paying a total of $23,022.08, which Pini said at that time included interest and additional charges for changing the locks and paying town personnel to seize the property.

In response to the new fire alarm system that the town required the restaurant to install in 2010, Pini said Monday the Rindge building inspector operates under state fire codes and has consistently worked with local businesses to help them become compliant over time.

The loss of a family-owned restaurant is unfortunate, Pini said. “They have been a landmark in this town for many years and people will be saddened that they’re doors are closed,” she said.

Rep. John Hunt, a Rindge Republican, said by phone Monday that he had not heard about the auction and that it was a shame the restaurant could not continue due to financial problems.

“I believe the ban of smoking in restaurants was ultimately their demise,” Hunt said, referring to the state’s ban on smoking in bars and restaurants in 2007. “The restaurant served that clientele.”

In September, Hunt said he received a call from the family seeking his help to reinstate the restaurant’s health and safety license, which had lapsed. Something, he said, he was able to do in time for the restaurant to remain opening that upcoming weekend.

According to the James R. St. Jean Auctioneers’ website, the 140-seat restaurant and lounge is assessed at $384,100. The 3,116-square-foot structure is located in a commercial zone and sits on approximately 3.42 acres. The business has a private well and septic system. The auction will be held on site at 11 a.m.

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

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