Hearne to pass the torch at Donovan's

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BELLOWS FALLS — Josh Hearne started running Donovan's on Aug. 29, 2013. The familiar pub standing in downtown Bellows Falls has a history that started long before Hearne. It first opened in February of 1943. Hearne said he was the third person ever to have run the bar, but soon there will be a fourth.

Hearne's hanging up his bartending hat after a 24-year-long career. He made the announcement on the Donovan's Facebook page. He listed his growing family as a main motivator for leaving the business. Hearne will be getting married in October. He has two small children, a 14-month-old daughter, and a 4-year-old step daughter. The long night hours of the business meant a lot of missed moments in his older daughter's life, who just recently graduated high school and is off to college. He doesn't want to miss his younger children's school events.

"I've tried to find a balance," Hearne wrote on Facebook, "but in truth I can't put enough dedication into either [his family, or the bar] and one is far more important to me than the other."

Hearne leased the bar after a quick stint running a Barnaby's Presents in Brattleboro. Barnaby's, he said, also worked as a music hall. Hearne, along with a couple of friends brought in music festivals to Brattleboro. When Barnaby's closed down, Hearne didn't give up his music festival dreams. He and his friends brought bluegrass festivals and jam band festivals to southern Vermont. One festival, Pickin In The Pasture Vermont Music Festival, is still happening. It premiered Friday and Saturday at Middletown Springs, though Hearne said he wasn't involved this year.

Whoever next owns the bar, Hearne said, he would like to see them bring back more live music and open up the kitchen.

The bar will remain profitable, Hearne said.

"It's always been a good neighborhood bar," he said. "A lot of the customers I have now are the kids of the people I grew up serving 20 something years ago."

Hearne, though he currently lives in Grafton, used to live in Rockingham. He has deep ties to the community. He even used to be a member of the Rockingham Select Board.

Hearne got his first bartending gig under the previous bar operator, Wayne Ryan. Now he leases the bar from Ryan. Through his time there, he said, he'd made a lot of great friends and had a lot of fun. "I always took pride in how I poured the perfect pint."

Bartending appealed to him because of its social nature. "It was fun 99 days out of 100," Hearne said. "Where else can you get paid to talk to people, and listen to music?"

He said he'll miss the bar culture, but he's happy to spend time with his fiance and kids. He intends on going into construction work. He thinks the hours will be more accommodating to family life. Still, he can see himself coming back every now and then to the new Donovan's and working behind the counter for a night or two.

Hearne intends on officially giving up the lease in October or September. It's not yet known who, if anybody, will renew the lease.

Harmony Birch can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext.153. Or you can follow her @birchharmony.

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