BY BETHANY BRAY
---- — WENHAM — Diners at the Wenham Tea House can now enjoy their tea al fresco.
A new, 35-seat patio is one of many changes the Keohane family has made since taking over the historic eatery this winter. The stone patio, surrounded by flowers and plants, opened this month.
The new outdoor space is designed to expand the restaurant’s seating capacity, but also its profile — attracting more than just the “ladies lunch” crowd, John Keohane said.
“It creates a whole other dimension,” Keohane said recently, sitting at one of the outdoor tables.
The Monument Street eatery serves brunch on weekends and breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea Tuesday through Friday.
They hope to attract both men and women with an expanded menu and special events, such as a craft beer dinner scheduled for September, Keohane said. The new menu features daily specials and will change seasonally.
Keohane, who owns Henry’s Market in Beverly, took over the teahouse in February, after the eatery’s previous tenant decided not to renew her lease. His son, Christopher, is operations manager at the teahouse.
Prior to their Easter grand opening, the Keohanes outfitted the teahouse kitchen with new equipment and flooring and installed new carpet, paint and fixtures in the dining room. They also upgraded the water filters and softeners in the basement — imperative for a good cup of tea.
Installing an outdoor patio was part of the agreement when John Keohane signed a lease with the Wenham Village Improvement Society, the nonprofit that owns the teahouse.
A new liquor license was also part of the plan. In February, Town Meeting voters overwhelmingly supported a home rule petition to seek an all-alcohol pouring license for the teahouse. The license has since been awarded to the town, and Keohane said he is in the process of applying for the liquor license. It will need final approval from the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission before the teahouse can begin pouring.
“We’re hoping for a nice Christmas present (getting the license by the holidays),” he said.
Until then, the Keohanes apply for temporary, one-day liquor licenses for special events, such as wine dinners or bridal showers.
Keohane said success at the teahouse wouldn’t have been possible without the support he’s gotten from the community and town officials, as well as from his family.
His wife, Janet, selected the decor for the teahouse — from antique furnishings to the place mats and napkin rings. Janet runs the DogSpa boutique in North Beverly. The couple’s youngest son, Christopher, manages the teahouse, and their other son, Jason, manages food services at Henry’s and keeps the teahouse supplied.
“And we all still like each other,” Janet said with a smile.
Keohane has owned Henry’s since 1995 and worked for the store’s founder, Henry Swanson, for 21 years before purchasing the business. The Keohanes live on the Danvers/Wenham line and have a less-than-10-minute commute to each of their businesses.
John Keohane floated the idea of taking over the teahouse to the family at a gathering on Christmas Eve last year. They all agreed it would be a good idea, he said.
“The whole thing just fit,” Janet said. “It just works with everything we do.”
Established in 1912, the Wenham Tea House is considered the oldest continuously operating teahouse in the United States. It sits on a 6-acre parcel owned by the Wenham Village Improvement Society.
Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.