March 27, 2008

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Hold your horses
The Big Bear Lodge is about to rock
By Brian Early bearly@hippopress.com

The Big Bear Lodge in Brookline is back to providing a venue for music starting April 12.

Last year the lodge closed its music venue, a blow to country bands that played there and the fans who went to see them. After the lodge closed to music, New Hampshire Charitable Gaming opened a poker room in the lodge, which also houses Kun Garden Chinese restaurant. But the poker room closed in January and merged with the River Card Room in Milford. The bingo hall at the lodge is still open.

The closing of the gaming hall at Big Bear proved to be well-timed for Steve Willette, who owns the Horse Stop, LLC. In early January, he bought the Souhegan Tack and Feed Shop in Brookline, located on the corner of Routes 13 and 130, renamed it the Horse Stop and opened it as a tack shop. But soon the owner of the building was forced sell the building, making Willette, who has worked previously as a paramedic and police officer, search for a new place.

At first, he planned to open the Horse Stop (as a tack shop only) on the upper level of the lodge, where there used to be music, but he soon decided to open the shop downstairs and create a multi-use function hall upstairs. The space, which will be called the Horse Stop Function Hall, is where bands will play.

“I’m very excited about it,” Willette said about opening a music venue. “I’ve wanted to do it for many years.”

He’s not a musician himself (“I tried to learn guitar, but I couldn’t do it”), but he enjoys music immensely. Other bands are excited as well.

“The Bear is back,” said Dave Plante of the band Country Felix. “That’s real exciting for us. That was our home club. We played there so often.”

Willette plans for more than a music venue, which by June should have music Friday and Saturday nights. He also hopes to bring comedy to the venue. During the week, he plans to have line dancing classes and fitness classes. There will also be events for young people after school and during vacations to “try to give kids some place to go and stay out of trouble.”

“I want to make full use of that building,” he said.

The downstairs will be the tack shop, full of clothing, saddles, riding helmets, boots and horse feed, catering to “the Western clientèle,” Willette said. There will also be space for consignment. But the downstairs won’t open until the beginning of May.

The upstairs will have a liquor license and will serve food during shows and events. Shana Stack and the Fastlane open up the venue on April 12.


Where is the Horse Stop
Big Bear Lodge, 106 Route 13, Brookline, www.thehorsestop.com, 673-4841