La Bec Rouge Manager, Others to Take Over
By Shir Haberman
Hampton Union Friday, March 13, 2009
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON -- One of the most well-known eateries in downtown Hampton changed hands March 12.
Widow Fletcher's Tavern, located at 401 Lafayette Road, welcomed guests for the last time Wednesday for evening dinner and drinks. After 26 years as the tavern's owner, Parker Ryan is selling the restaurant to Daniel "Desi" Lanio, general manager of La Bec Rouge at Hampton Beach, and several other local restaurateurs.
"I've been here a long time," Ryan said, "and the restaurant is going into the hands of people who will run a great restaurant."
Ryan said the Widow's, as it has come to be known by locals, will now become the 401 Tavern.
"The restaurant will offer almost the same atmosphere and menu as the Widow's," Ryan said. "All the people working here will be part of the new venture."
Ryan has working for decades in the highly competitive Seacoast hospitality industry. He operated Master McGrath's in Seabrook and Abercrombie and Finch in North Hampton before joining forces with chef Ron Boucher and opening Widow Fletcher's in 1983.
"Now I'm going to take some time off," Ryan said.
Ryan took his restaurant's name from a book about English pubs he said he read in the Newburyport (Mass.) Public Library.
"I was opening an English-style tavern," he said, describing the events that occurred over a quarter-century ago, "and I was looking for a name for my new place."
He said he knew many English pubs were named after generals, or even after some of the older, popular drinks of the country, but he wanted something different.
"I liked the story of Widow Fletcher," he said. "For a woman to be running a tavern out of her home was an amazing thing (back in the 1700s)."
Ryan said he could have called the tavern Private Fletcher's, but he liked the idea of naming his establishment after a woman.
On New Year's Eve 1983, Ryan opened his restaurant in a 17th century building on Lafayette Road. It's atmosphere and good food immediately became a local hit.
Always looking for ways to have a good time, Ryan and a group of Widow Fletcher's regulars began performing at the annual Hampton Christmas Parade under the name of the Widow Fletcher's Royal Society Bridge Club. A tradition was quickly established in which Ryan and his cohorts would hold inductions of prominent local figures into the club, complete with drinks and merriment. Over the past several years, that tradition has taken hold and the society includes people like Congressmen Dick Gephardt, D-Missouri, and Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., and former Vice President and presidential hopeful Al Gore.
Most recently honored were Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, and Vice President Joe Biden, who joined last year.
The sale will not affect the club's functions, Ryan said.
"The Bridge Club is still going strong," he said.