PAXTON — A popular restaurant and bar in downtown Paxton has shut its doors and been put up for sale after two-plus years in business.
Paxton resident Ben Grice said he made the “difficult decision” to close the Harvest Ale House to free up his schedule so he can spend more time with his family. The 41-year-old opened the business in the 105-year-old building at 102 S. Market St. — across the street from another restaurant he owns, The Humble Hog — in August 2017 following an extensive renovation.
In an announcement Monday on the Harvest Ale House’s Facebook page, Grice said that about midway through a weeklong vacation with his family over the holidays, he realized that he needed to spend more time with his family and that doing so would require him to “simplify” his business model by closing the restaurant and bar.
Its last day in business was Saturday.
“I’ve done nothing but ‘go, go, go’ and haven’t taken a minute to spend with family,” Grice said, “so now I am.”
Grice said his focus will now be solely on The Humble Hog, which will remain open at 125 S. Market St. Grice said The Humble Hog will honor the Harvest Ale House’s gift certificates.
Grice stressed that The Harvest Ale House was a successful business, and the decision to close it had nothing to do with a lack of sales.
“We always drew a crowd; we had a great team,” Grice said. “It’s just, it’s a new year and I’m taking a hard look at how I run the businesses, and I’d like to simplify our entire model and just focus on one branch.”
Grice said he has already been in contact with a few prospective buyers, and he hopes a new owner can be secured soon. Grice said the buyer could continue to operate the restaurant and bar as the Harvest Ale House or under an entirely new concept.
“It’ll take the right person, for sure,” Grice said. “We’re entertaining several conversations at once right now, so we’ll see who steps forward.”
Most of the Harvest Ale House’s 22 part-time employees were cross-trained to work at The Humble Hog, Grice said, and all will be given opportunities to remain on staff at the popular barbecue restaurant that has been a Paxton mainstay since November 2014.
“We’ll have to massage the hours and refigure the schedule, but we’re going to do everything we can to help everyone during the transition,” Grice said.
The building at 102 S. Market St. — once the home of The 102 Lounge — had been vacant for several years prior to the Harvest Ale House opening there. Grice completely renovated the building’s interior, bringing what he called a “prohibition-era vibe” to it.
The Harvest Ale House’s menu was short and sweet, but with enough selection to keep people interested and coming back for more. There were 12 tap lines at the 10-seat bar, which also featured four flat-screen televisions, and all of the brews on tap were from breweries in Illinois.
“I kind of feel like once business levels off over here, this place will kind of feel like Cheers. Ya know? You walk in and everyone knows your name kind of a place,” Grice said in advance of its grand opening in 2017.
Grice called the experience of operating the Harvest Ale House “amazing,” adding that he has “zero regrets about what we did to rehab that building and make it a part of the community.”
“Now that it is a respected mainstay in our town, I think the next owner will do very well with it,” Grice said.