With the COVID-19 pandemic creating serious financial concerns for local restaurants, many have reduced staff or limited their hours to cut costs.
But Jimmy Tempesta, who owns Jim Eddie’s restaurant in Keene, is taking a different, bolder tack: He plans to close the comfort-food eatery this spring and move its operations down the street to a larger location at the Best Western Hotel.
Tempesta, 59, hopes to launch the new restaurant, his fifth in the Monadnock Region since 1994, in April. He said it will offer similar cuisine.
Jim Eddie’s, which he opened at 429 Winchester St. in 2011, has faced financial challenges this year due to restrictions on in-person dining, Tempesta said. He believes, however, that the business will fare better at the hotel — where Willie Mac’s Pub and Restaurant was located for two years before closing in August — because the larger space can accommodate more of his devoted clientele while also allowing for social distancing.
“This community stepped up for us, and we owe it to them to have a safe atmosphere,” he said. “ ... I’m going to have the same restaurant over there, where everybody knows your name.”
The space at the Best Western, located at 401 Winchester St., measures more than 9,000 square feet, including its patio, according to city records — nearly five times the size of Jim Eddie’s. Tempesta estimated the new space will be able to host as many as 125 people, even with social-distancing restrictions.
In addition to accommodating more customers, the space will also offer a safer, more comfortable environment for employees than the cramped confines at Jim Eddie’s, according to Tempesta.
Before Jim Eddie’s, Tempesta owned eateries in Winchester, Swanzey and Hinsdale. He plans to name the new joint after the original one: Tempesta’s Restaurant.
Tempesta acknowledged that his latest effort may be the most audacious. And the new location has not proven particularly stable: Before Willie Mac’s was there for two years, Waxy O’Connors Irish Pub closed in 2017 after seven years in business.
“I’m scared to go over there,” he said. “Everybody knows the history.”
But Tempesta is excited, as well, and said he plans to expand the current Jim Eddie’s staff of 25, brighten the new restaurant with additional lighting and replace its floor.
“I’m not opening a bar,” he said. “I want a family restaurant.”
Jim Eddie’s will remain open until the new establishment is ready in the spring, at which point Tempesta hopes to find a buyer who can keep the old business running.