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Santa Fe Dining plans to take over Kellys Brew Pub

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Kellys Brew Pub in Nob Hill, photographed on April 20, 2016. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

One of the state’s most prolific restaurant companies is looking to build its portfolio by taking over one of Nob Hill’s most recognized establishments.

Santa Fe Dining — parent company of Chama River Brewing Co., Blue Corn Brewery and Rio Chama among others — is in the process of acquiring Kellys Brew Pub in Nob Hill, Santa Fe Dining president Jim Hargrove confirmed to the Journal Thursday.

Should everything proceed according to plan, Santa Fe Dining would take over operations at the 10,000-square-foot eatery by the end of summer. The company must still complete its due diligence and get its own small brewers’ license for the landmark location at 3222 Central SE, the former Jones Motor Co. Ford dealership and service station.

Kellys would become the 11th restaurant under the Santa Fe Dining umbrella. While most are in Santa Fe, the company has a growing presence in Albuquerque. In addition to Chama River, the company opened its Draft Station taproom in the Country Club area in 2014. It also plans to add a location of its 35 North Coffee brand in the same area later this year.

The company typically develops its own brands rather than acquire existing restaurants, but Hargrove recited a list of reasons why Kellys made for an attractive prospect.

“The current owners have done such a great job of establishing it as a locals place to go, the location is amazing, the patio is an absolute homerun, the building and its architecture are just so cool and such a great location for a restaurant and a brewpub,” he said. “The only thing I can tell you that is a mild hangup that everyone has to deal with in Nob Hill is that parking can be a challenge but beyond that, it’s tough to find a reason not to pursue Kellys Brewpub as part of Santa Fe Dining.”

Kellys owner Dennis Bonfantine, now 66, said he and his wife, Janice, are preparing to retire. They started Kellys 20 years ago and have been in the current location, which is on the state and national registers of historic places and is a city landmark, since 2000.

“I think it’s a good transition,” he said of the planned sale to Santa Fe Dining. “I think it’s the best use of the property and the building and everything.”

The change of hands is not expected to lead to dramatic changes in the day-to-day operations. Santa Fe Dining will keep the name, give existing employees — of which there are about 75 — a chance to stay in place, and likely stick close to the established menu, Hargrove said. The idea is to use the formula that made Kellys a Nob Hill staple.

“Down the road, we’ll probably make some tweaks here and there, but Kellys is not broken so it doesn’t need fixing,” he said.

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