Business & Economy

Burlington mainstay Sweetwaters to close after Labor Day

The owners of Sweetwaters restaurant, at the corner of Church Street and College Street in Burlington, have announced that they are closing the restaurant and selling the space. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Sweetwaters, the longtime Church Street Marketplace mainstay in Burlington whose outdoor tables and American bistro dining are popular with summer tourists, is closing after Labor Day, and the new owners plan to move in an Italian restaurant by the fall.

“I’ve been in the business for 41 years,” Sweetwaters owner David Melincoff told VTDigger. “It was just time to close one chapter in my life and open other ones. You know, I’ve been taking care of people for 41 years, and it’s time to take care of myself.”

Melincoff insisted that this was strictly a personal decision and not a business one. The restaurant did well during the Covid-19 pandemic, he said.

“We were very fortunate,” he said. Asked if the summer tourists on the pedestrian section of Church Street carried the restaurant through the pandemic winters, Melincoff replied that “we were pretty busy during the winter, too.”

“The restaurant thrived over the last few years,” he said. “It’s healthy.”

Melincoff said he promised himself once he had to close the restaurant in the early days of Covid-19 that he would steer the business through the pandemic and then move on.

Jed Davis, owner of the restaurant collective Farmhouse Group, and Melincoff said in a press release that Sweetwaters would sell its business and transfer the long-term lease at its historic building to Farmhouse Group effective Sept. 6. 

The restaurant was closed on Wednesday due to staffing shortages, according to a note on its website. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

“Opened by pioneering restaurateur Tony Perry, Sweetwaters has been honored to be a restaurant of choice for the Vermont community and our traveling guests for over 41 years,” they said in the release. “However, all good things must come to an end.”

The Farmhouse Group will move its Italian restaurant, Pascolo Ristorante, also on Church Street Marketplace, into the Sweetwaters space this fall.

“Upon deciding it was time to move on, it was important for me to sell the business to a local organization that was aligned with our core values; Great guest service, high quality food, taking care of employees and of course, giving back to the community,” Melincoff said in the press release. “All of this was accomplished by passing on the reins to Jed and the Farmhouse Group.”

Davis said he was “thrilled” by the opportunity, noting Melincoff has worked “tirelessly” for decades.

“The Pascolo team is psyched for the big move to 118 Church Street,” Davis said in the release. “It’s a landmark property that will allow us to more fully represent the Pascolo concept including lunch and even a retail presence.”

The Farmhouse Group has agreed to “make efforts” to keep the Sweetwaters staff, according to the press release. Melincoff said he is “very confident” the employees will be able to stay on. 

The Farmhouse Group also agreed to keep up “in some format” the traditional Thanksgiving Day community dinner Sweetwaters has long hosted, but Melincoff did not think that the accompanying coat drive would continue. 

Sweetwaters’ last day of operation will be Sept. 5, according to the release. Upon transfer, the building will undergo significant renovation and will reopen as Pascolo Ristorante in November. Pascolo Ristorante will continue at its present 83 Church Street location until the move.

“It’s been a great run,” Melincoff said. “It’s been 41 years. And I really appreciate being part of the Burlington community and I’m grateful for all the support and love that we’ve gotten over the years.”

Davis did not respond to a text message and a voicemail requesting an interview. 

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Fred Thys

About Fred

Fred Thys covers business and the economy for VTDigger. He is originally from Bethesda, Maryland, and graduated from Williams College with a degree in political science. He is the recipient of the Radio, Television, and Digital News Association's Edward R. Murrow Award for Investigative Reporting and for Enterprise Reporting. Fred has worked at The Journal of Commerce, ABC News, CBS News, CNN, NBC News, and WBUR, and has written for Le Matin, The Dallas Morning News, and The American Homefront Project.

Email: [email protected]

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