November 15, 2017

Hanover Theatre to open 1920s-themed restaurant Josephine

Grant Welker
The menu will at Josephine will be American, with steak and seafood offerings, upscale but affordable.

When the Hanover Theatre expanded into a Main Street building last year for a new conservatory, leaders of the organization set a goal of opening a restaurant to help liven the stretch of downtown outside.

That vision will become a reality next spring.

Hanover officials announced at their annual meeting Tuesday night that Chris Rassias, a Worcester-raised restaurateur, will open a 1920s-themed restaurant at 551 Main St.

The menu will be American, with steak and seafood offerings, upscale but affordable enough for people looking to take in a show afterward, Rassias said.

"I'm excited to be here and excited to do great things in the future," he said.

Rassias, who owns the Fairmount Grille in Boston, said he was tipped off to the opportunity by friends in the Worcester area who heard of the opportunity. He plans to name the restaurant Josephine, after Josephine Baker, an entertainer and activist who became a star in the '20s.

The restaurant will bring new life to a storefront that's been vacant since before the theater bought the former office building in 2014. The expansion was completed in mid-2016.

"We strongly feel that having a restaurant down there that's symbiotic will contribute a great deal," Hanover President and CEO Troy Siebels told an audience of several dozen at the annual meeting. "It has taken a lot to bring that together."

The importance of the restaurant's planned opening extended well beyond simply a new eatery on the horizon, as officials seize on opportunities to add more amenities downtown.

City Manager Edward Augustus, Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Timothy Murray, and Roy Angel, a vice president for lending at the state agency MassDevelopment, all spoke. Augustus called the restaurant "a big step in re-imagining downtown."

The Hanover Theatre has had its most successful year, as it nears its 10th anniversary next March. The theater had 231 performances and 214,000 patrons in the budget year, which ended mid-2017. A $10-million fundraising campaign first kicked off to help buy the conservatory building has so far raised $7.6 million, Siebels said.

The theater hired its first general manager, Glen Grusmark, to help oversee operations. Its Adopt a School program, which aims to bring the theater to Worcester Public Schools students, has connected with 2,400 students.

The conservatory opened in January and has run 62 classes that include more than 200 students, said Meghan Montaner, the theater's director of education.

A 10th anniversary celebration is scheduled for March 14.

Revenue from events for the 2017 budget year hit $9.2 million, the theater's highest ever, with revenues doubling since the 2008 opening.

The theater makes a large majority of its revenue from ticket sales and other events income, which is supplemented by grants and investment income.

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