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Katie McQuaid's Scene in Manchester: Another downtown nightspot planned

July 24. 2016 10:30PM

Plans are underway to bring something very beautiful to Bridge Street. The creators of Cabonnay describe their multi-million dollar project as an “urban wine house,” bringing unique wines, farm-to-table foods, an art gallery, and indoor gardens all together under one roof.

Earlier this month, Cabonnay CEO Cornelis de Jong and business partner David Thompson, officially purchased 55 Bridge St., a drab, almost invisible, office building that sits between the Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield building on Elm Street and the Cadillac Motel on Chestnut. Its transformation into a downtown oasis could begin as early as this summer.

“It’s a terrible-looking, awful-looking building right now,” said Cabonnay Director of Marketing and Media Kimberly Schuerhoff.

I met Schuerhoff for coffee last week outside Bridge Café, just around the corner from the future Cabonnay. It wasn’t hard to pick her out. She looked as though she was plucked from Manhattan and dropped here in our little New England town.

Although she’s originally from Connecticut, the big-city feel is exactly what the Cabonnay team is going for.

“We’re bringing an experience you could find in New York, and LA and Chicago,” Schuerhoff said.

Creating the experience sounds as if it has been quite the ride. Schuerhoff said she and de Jong have traveled around the United States and to other countries in search of the perfect aesthetic for Cabonnay, as well as the perfect wines to serve there.

Their aim, Schuerhoff said, is to find out, “what is the rest of the country doing, and why isn’t it happening in New Hampshire?”

But the ride hasn’t come without bumps. Cabonnay was originally envisioned as a California wine country-type space in Londonderry. Property had been purchased and an emporium that sold wine-related items and hosted wine tastings was up and running.

In a March 16 email sent to the town, Cabonnay points to “negative neighbors” and “overcommitted building contractors” as some of the reasons they decided to bring the project to Manchester instead.

Schuerhoff said a January 2017 opening would be ideal, but they are clearly taking their time, with hopes of bringing something very special and unique to New England.

Plans for the 55 Bridge St. building include carving out the northwest corner of the building’s top floor to create an outdoor, roof-top bar that will be heated and open for at least three seasons. Inside, there will be an 80-seat dining room, indoor garden with floor-to-ceiling windows, an emporium selling wine-related goods, and private event space.

Art — both visual and musical — will be everywhere.

“When you’re inside Cabonnay, all your senses will be working,” Schuerhoff said. She would like to task New Hampshire Institute of Art students with painting an outdoor mural, perhaps near the side of the building that faces the rear of the Cadillac Motel.

Ah yes, the Cadillac Motel. Positioning a high-end “urban wine house” next to a place with notorious “rooms for a night or a lifetime,” seems to be the ultimate dichotomy. But Schuerhoff said their new neighbors never deterred them.

The way the building and rooftop bar are positioned, guests won’t be able to see the motel, just a beautiful view across the river to the West Side and beyond. They are excited to be so close to the Bridge and Elm intersection.

Schuerhoff said the Cabonnay team, who have all come from other cities and countries to make New Hampshire their home, believe Manchester is transforming, and they are excited to be a part of it.

“It’s a great place to be building. It’s an up-and-coming city, and we’re getting in at a great time,” she said.

Schuerhoff said the team intends the flagship Cabonnay to be the first of many. “They are building on national standards, and they are starting here.”

Live Free or Die Festival

Some other people who see Manchester as an up-and-coming city with a great art scene have started selling tickets for the first-ever Live Free or Die Film Festival.

I wrote about the festival and its organizers, Robert and Dorothea Daniel, in my May 2 column. On Aug. 12 and 13, they will bring more than 20 films of all different genres to the Palace Theatre. Most of the films have New Hampshire origins.

The festival starts at noon on both days, with screenings running through the afternoon and evening. Tickets are $25 per day or $40 for both days. A list of films and ticket information can be found at

NH365.ORG Event of the Week

Manchester Community Theatre Players will present their final two Theatre Under the Stars performances this Tuesday and next, July 26 and Aug. 2. Interactive Three 3 Musketeers is billed as a “fresh, fast-paced, and funny adaptation of one of literature’s most romantic adventures.”

The shows, starting at 6:30 p.m., are performed outside on the property of North End Montessori School (and inside the 698 North Beech St. building if the weather is bad).

Guests are encouraged to bring a blanket or camp chair and their own picnic, although concessions can also be purchased on site.

Tickets are $5 and children under 12 are free.

For more information about this and other summer theater events, visit

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