- Matthew Thorsen
- Olde Northender Pub
Three barstools were already occupied when I visited the Olde Northender Pub for the first time on a Tuesday at 10 a.m.
After my eyes adjusted to the gloom and I turned down the beer the bartender offered, I remarked to the gaggle of guys nursing Bud Lights: "It's 5 o'clock somewhere."
I was not there to drink but to find out more about the bar's charitable work: selling break-open tickets to raise money for various causes.
Numerous Vermont watering holes offer bar games to raise money for local tax-exempt youth sports teams or veterans' organizations. But in searching through a public database of income-tax returns, Seven Days discovered that the Olde Northender had its own nonprofit organization.
Owner Bob Beauvais was listed as the director.
I didn't get any answers on that particular summer morning. Beauvais was out, and the bartender didn't know about the nonprofit.
Nor did I learn much more the next time — or the next. When he was there, Beauvais answered brusquely or not at all, saying he was too busy for an interview. He didn't have an email address, bartenders told me.
So I just kept coming, usually by bike, and noted that the Olde Northender always seemed to be open. I got to know at least three or four grizzled regulars. One was a retired mover, looking for part-time work. Another had known Beauvais for decades.
I'd leave my name and number and follow up with phone calls.
It took a series of conversations — most of which ended abruptly — to ascertain that Beauvais couldn't account for the money in the coffers of his nonprofit. At least one supposed beneficiary, the Special Olympics of Vermont, said it had no record of receiving any donations from the Olde Northender.
The one time Beauvais did answer my call, he angrily accused Seven Days of illegally looking at his tax filings, which are publicly available along with those of every other nonprofit organization. He threatened to call an attorney, then hung up before I could defend myself.
After the story ran, I steered clear of the Olde Northender for months. I didn't return again until November, when I stopped by — after work hours — with coworkers. Luckily, no one recognized me in a place where everybody knows your name.
This time, I did order a beer — but no break-open tickets, which still appeared to be for sale.