Twelve Tribes eyeing eatery

Rutland Herald/June 17, 2008

Brattleboro - A new owner may be in the works for the iconic Common Ground Restaurant in downtown Brattleboro.

A spokesman for the Twelve Tribes Community said Monday the group hoped to purchase the now-closed restaurant and open a café in its place.

"We're in negotiations and have been for a few months," said Ranan Alon, manager of the group's Rutland eatery, the Back Home Again café.

Alon said the group also hoped to open a café in downtown Bellows Falls, at the site of the former Oona's Restaurant, which was severely damaged by fire in 2006, shortly after it was sold by the original owner.

Alon said Twelve Tribes operated about 20 different cafés around the world, all with the name "Common Ground."

He said Twelve Tribes had the trademarked rights to the name Common Ground, and the Brattleboro restaurant had been using it although it had no connection with the Twelve Tribes, which is a self-governing religious community with presence in Vermont, New York and Massachusetts, and other areas of the country, as well as in Europe and Australia.

"The name is ours, and has been several years - we own the name. But we weren't getting stingey with the name," he said.

The Twelve Tribes currently operates the Common Loaf Bakery in downtown Brattleboro in the Mid-Town Mall, selling its signature spelt bread, which is made from the spelt grown at the group's farm in Westminster. They have a large natural foods farm, The Basin Farm, in North Westminster, close to Bellows Falls.

Alon said it would be a few months before any deal was reached to open a Brattleboro location or a Bellows Falls café. He said that an earlier café in downtown Bellows Falls, operated by Twelve Tribes and called Common Ground, closed several years ago because of problems with a landlord.

"We have a lot on our plate right now going forward with much counsel," said Alon, who noted the two cafés would serve as a way of communicating with area residents. Larry Bloch, a member of the board of directors of Common Ground, said Monday it would be premature to discuss any potential sale.

"We're trying to save the Common Ground restaurant and this might be a good fit," said Bloch, a downtown merchant who runs the business "Save The Corporations (from themselves)."

The Brattleboro restaurant closed last November after operating one year, after several years of being closed. It was founded in 1971, as the counterculture movement arrived in southeastern Vermont. The restaurant, which was run as a cooperative for most of its years, featured vegetarian and whole foods, and community dinners, as well as live music.

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