BY CALEB ALEXANDER
Back in November when A Fine Swine closed its doors for good in New Baden, it was met with great sadness and despair by many in the community, especially when considering this business was located at the end of town where people visiting for the first time, coming off the interstate, would see it and, perhaps, stop by for some food and beverage.
The coronavirus pandemic had been an obvious factor in the closing of A Fine Swine both in New Baden and Mount Vernon.
But Brant Kehrer helped solve this problem when he moved forward toward opening the Wooden Mouth in the building vacated by A Fine Swine, offering specialized cuisine and craft beers, an outcome well received by many.
Wooden Mouth, located at 423 West Hanover, is a good representation of forward, progressive thinking and attitudes in the village of New Baden, giving the town something somewhat unique and, most importantly, presenting the potential to funnel much needed revenue into the locality.
Kehrer’s informal request to extend his weekend hours to 3 a.m., in an attempt to improve his customer traffic, however, has not been welcomed with open arms. It was discussed by Village Trustee Bob Oster at the village board meeting held Tuesday night.
Helping businesses to be more successful is something you would think the village officials want to pursue but not in this case, at least not yet.
Oster’s accounting of a conversation he had with Kehrer about the extended opening hours included the results of some research the village trustee said he did with the help of the local chief of police. In Germantown and Damiansville, 3 a.m. closing times for bars are okay, Oster said he found out.
But he balked at supporting Wooden Mouth being allowed to stay open another hour on Friday and Saturday, until 3 a.m. instead of 2 a.m., because he said he thinks Kehrer should build up his clientele at the business then come back with the request in a few months.
This discussion is not the first about Wooden Mouth which has taken place with some negative intonation by the village board. In December when the board had to decide whether or not to increase the number of Class A tavern licenses for serving alcohol from one to two so that this business could operate in New Baden, Trustees Nicole Pederson and Taylor Zurliene voted against it. This was after Kehrer received approval in 2018 to open the Wooden Mouth at 119 East Hanover, prior to the decision to relocate it to the old A Fine Swine building.
Some opposition to the business had been expressed in December, based on such unfounded fears that this business would bring underage drinking, fights, nudity and all sorts of other unsavory criminal activity into New Baden.
Kehrer and his team have put in almost three years of preparations and plans, facing stumbling blocks and shifting gears with the change in locations for getting Wooden Mouth off the ground. Wooden Mouth can best be described as a social gathering place specializing in craft beers and a nice variety of adult beverage and good eats.
The village needs the business, however, and the tax income a place like Wooden Mouth will produce, once it is up and running at full speed, is expected to boost the local economy. Kehrer is appreciative that at least four of the six members of the village board recognized this as a plus for New Baden back in December.
Underscoring the importance of welcoming this new business to the village is the fact that the coronavirus pandemic has caused many to suffer during the past year along with also reducing the tax income from such sources. Perhaps if more businesses were encouraged to operate in New Baden, once things open up after the pandemic subsides, then the village board won’t have to raise local taxes like they did in December.
Still another community benefit being provided by Wooden Mouth is the number of jobs it will create for people in need of work by hiring a large staff of employees.
The foundation for Wooden Mouth to open in New Baden began all the way back in 2018 and involved the renovation of an older building on Hanover deeper into the central part of town before the decision was made to relocate it to the former Fine Swine site.
Wooden Mouth will be the first bar and grill specializing in fine craft beers in all of New Baden. The business plans to serve, along with specialized craft beers, other choices like cocktails, wines, bourbons and unique food selections.
The congenial members of the Wooden Mouth team who will be serving customers is made up of males and females, including a set of cute twins, who all bring with them charming personalities and a desire to make everyone feel comfortable while having lots of fun.
Brian Van Flandern, a premier mixologist from New York City, will be coming to New Baden when Wooden Mouth opening time nears so that he can spend three full days here teaching the bartending staff the secrets that have earned him numerous accolades including having won an award for the best cocktail book in the world in 2009.
With everything moving in a forward direction, Wooden Mouth may be opening as soon as mid-March (St. Patrick’s Day anyone?).