Fireworks Restaurant owner Matthew Blau is still looking for someone to buy his downtown Keene business, which closed late last year, he said Monday.
Blau said he has received around 10 bids for the Italian-inspired eatery since putting it on the market in spring 2020 but that the offers either didn’t satisfy his asking price or were from people he felt couldn’t keep the restaurant open.
Fireworks closed in November, which Blau said in a Facebook post was due to financial difficulties stemming from a surge in local COVID-19 cases at the time. In the post, he said the restaurant would reopen if it could find a new owner or new investors.
Blau told The Sentinel in November that he put Fireworks up for sale because he had moved to Ecuador and felt that it should be run locally. The business struggled financially during the pandemic but had managed to stay viable until infection rates spiked late last fall, he said at the time.
Fireworks, which opened at 22 Main St. in 2011, typically made around $1.4 million in revenue, he said Monday.
Blau initially listed the restaurant at $499,000 but said he dropped that price substantially during the pandemic, with potential buyers worried about investing in a struggling hospitality industry. It’s now listed at $275,000, he said.
“Now that we’re coming out of the pandemic ... we are seeing much more interest in it,” he said. “... This has been an excruciating year for anybody in hospitality.”
Some of Fireworks’ bidders offered less than Blau was willing to take for the restaurant or abandoned their interest over pandemic-related concerns, he said. Others wouldn’t have been able to maintain the business, which employed as many as 40 people before cutting that number to approximately 15 during the pandemic, according to Blau, who said selling to those bidders would have been “sentencing it to doom.”
“We have to be very careful to hand the restaurant over to somebody capable of carrying [it] forward in the way it should be operated,” he said.
Most of the offers have come from people in New Hampshire, Vermont or Massachusetts, including multiple local residents, he said.
Fireworks’ downtown location is owned by a subsidiary of the Massachusetts hospitality firm Jamsan Hotel Management, which also owns the adjacent Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott and several other area hotels.
Blau brought the restaurant to the Elm City three years after opening its first location in Brattleboro. He owned both locations until 2016, when he sold Fireworks in Brattleboro to its general manager, Erin Sprandel, who has since renamed it Echo Restaurant and Lounge. Another restaurant in Brattleboro owned by Blau, Brattleburger, closed in 2018.
Fireworks received financial aid from the federal Paycheck Protection Program as well as more than $125,000 from the N.H. Main Street Relief Fund last year, Blau said in November. The restaurant’s revenues that fall were about half of what they had been before the pandemic, he said at the time, adding that it had fared even worse leading up to its closure.
“We were slowly climbing back to viability,” he said at the time. “... It’s just not possible anymore. I’m out of money to lose.”
Blau, who is working with Joshua Greenwald of Greenwald Realty in Keene to sell Fireworks, said Monday he remains committed to finding a buyer who will reopen the restaurant.
“We are feeling very hopeful that before too long, Fireworks will have the lights on again,” he said.