Historic District’s National Club Sold to Become Restaurant

By Michael Bonner, [email protected]

NEW BEDFORD — A new restaurant will be arriving in a prime location in the downtown historic district as the building that once housed the National Club pub changed hands in January.

Franklin Hospitality Group, which falls under the jurisdiction of Richard Lafrance and Lafrance Hospitality, on Jan. 9 purchased for $774,000 the property located at 24 Union Street from Kevin Santos.

Santos in 2009 had paid $700,000 for the empty landmark building at the corner of Route 18 and Union Street but he never developed it.

The National Club was a relic of a bygone era in the city. Once a popular watering hole for the city’s fishermen, it hearkened back to an era when some fishermen home from the sea were said to quickly make their way to the National Club, as well as an assortment of other downtown waterfront establishments of a bygone era. They included the Sea Breeze and the Cultivator Shoals.

Reflecting the changing face of the lower Union Street, the Cultivator recently re-opened in a new location on the same block as a “craft cocktail bar.”

Sean Lafrance, the son of Richard Lafrance, confirmed the sale to The Standard-Times. He said the family is looking to establish a restaurant on the highly visible property across from the State Pier. They are in the process of acquiring a liquor license, but have not decided on what kind of food the restaurant will serve.

“It’ll be a food outlet, but we’re not sure of the concept,” Lafrance said. “We’ve tossed a few ideas around.”

The building shares the same block with Moby Dick Brewery, the city’s first brew pub, which opened its doors earlier this month. The city has long sought to attract businesses to the block which is seen as a key location in New Bedford’s efforts to boost its tourism industry. The block sits roughly midway between the waterfront and the Whaling Museum and Seaman’s Bethel/Mariner’s Home, which is undergoing a major expansion.

Richard Lafrance is one of seven partners in the Moby Dick Brewery.