By K.B. Sherman, Contributing Writer
Grafton – The Grafton Inn, owned since 2000 by The Pardee Group, Inc., of Westborough, will soon be changing hands. The inn is now in the process of being purchased by James J. Hunter of Whitinsville.
The Pardee Group, with John Pardee of Westborough, as president, purchased the inn in 2000. In 2007 he leased it out but returned as operator in 2009. In 2013 he put the 12,000-square-foot bar, restaurant, and inn at 25 Grafton Common on the market for $925,000. Laurie C. Pardee is also listed as a director of the two-person Pardee Group.
At the Oct. 6 meeting of the Grafton Board of Selectmen, Hunter appeared to petition for a transfer of the Inn Holder’s License and Liquor License from the Pardee Group to him. After Town Administrator Timothy McInerney told the selectmen that Hunter’s license applications had been received and were in order, Hunter said that that any changes he might make to the inn and its offerings would be “slow and gradual.” Operating hours and the restaurant menu will, for the time being, remain as is, as he determines what customers prefer. He has been in the restaurant business, he said, for 30 years, with experience at such places as Hardee’s, Big Boy, Arby’s, Pier 4, the Chart House, Nantucket Seafoods, The Fire House Café’, and Romaine’s. One change he is planning is increasing the inn’s marketing efforts.
Board Chair Craig Dauphinais counseled Hunter that Grafton takes policing its liquor licenses “very seriously” and advised him that the town conducts “stings” to ensure liquor law compliance. As an open hearing, audience input was invited. Elias Hannah asked Hunter if inn renovations might occur. Hunter replied that he would be happy to meet with Hannah after the hearing. Hunter concluded his presentation by stating that one change he did plan for the immediate future was to expand the bar’s rather tight fit in the building to a greater size and more open area plan, but that this would have no impact on the building’s exterior.
After the hearing was closed, the Board voted 4-0 (with Dennis Flynn absent) to approve the license transfers and wished Hunter well on his business endeavor. The inn’s ownership is expected to occur within the next 30 days.
Built in 1805 across from the Town Common by Samuel Wood, and the oldest building at the Common, its size was doubled right after the Civil War, when the front porch was redesigned. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 and included in the Grafton Common Historic District in 1988. It is commonly pictured on postcards and illustrations of Grafton and has been used as a backdrop television and movies.