GARDNER — As Rick Walton prepares to add a deck with outside dining to the Gardner Ale House, he says the outdoor dining area ties in to his continued commitment to the downtown community.

GARDNER — As Rick Walton prepares to add a deck with outside dining to the Gardner Ale House, he says the outdoor dining area ties in to his continued commitment to the downtown community.

“We are trying to put Gardner on the map here, and now you don’t have to leave Gardner for an outdoor dining spot,” said Mr. Walton. “This is the plan we have for the downtown to build commerce down here again.”

This week, the project received approval from both the Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board.

Once it is completed, the deck will be more than an additional 32-person outdoor seating, he said. It would mark the most significant change to the Ale House since it was opened in June 2006, and add another piece to try to pull people into the downtown area.

“We want people to think of Gardner before malls and big-box stores,” said Mr. Walton. “Beyond building a good business, my aim is to revitalize downtown Gardner, so everything that I do is aimed at revitalizing downtown.”

Mr. Walton sees his business as one of many pieces needed to bring more life back to the downtown area. The common good of all the merchants downtown ties in to Mr. Walton’s approach to his business.

“I call it bringing back Main Street. My competition isn’t the restaurant down the street. My competition is your refrigerator, your television set, your six pack of beer, your house. That is my competition,” said Mr. Walton.

Over the years, he has become increasingly interested in supporting downtown and the local community. The transition to restaurant owner from software engineer grew from his interest in home brewing and the importance of the pub to a community.

“My whole direction in getting older and older has been to become more interested in communities and getting people out of their homes and into the streets and in this case into the pub,” said Mr. Walton. “The pub is where revolutions are born. It’s supposed to be anyway. It’s a clearing house of ideas.”

The rear deck will help with drawing people out of their homes, he said. There will always be certain people who need to have outdoor dining. Now they will be able to get it within Gardner, giving even more people a reason to come downtown.

“I’ve been here for six years without (the deck), but I feel it is going to bring in a slightly different clientele,” said Mr. Walton. “There are people who just look for the outdoor dining.”

The heat wave in April cemented the idea in Mr. Walton’s plans, although it had been something his customers had been requesting for years. Having to get approval from both the Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board has pushed back a completion date into the end of August at the earliest, but Mr. Walton is still enthusiastic about the project.

“September is a warm month and October too,” he said.

Source: The Gardner News
By Sam Bonacci

Gardner Ale House
Moon Hill Brewing Co

74 Parker Street
Gardner, MA 01440

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