Burlington’s Sweetwaters restaurant closing its doors after 41 years

Published: Sep. 5, 2022 at 8:06 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 5, 2022 at 3:48 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - This Labor Day is closing day for an institution on Burlington’s Church Street Marketplace. Sweetwaters restaurant will shut its doors after dinner service Monday night, closing down after 41 years.

Known for its expansive menu and even more expansive outdoor seating space, almost every seat was filled on Monday as people filed in to get their final fix.

Labor Day tasted bittersweet at Sweetwaters as the eatery closes its doors for good.

“It’s been a blast,” owner David Melincoff said. “It’s been a good run.”

Melincoff is retiring after more than four decades in the industry. He says the closing comes with a potpourri of feelings, but he’s ready to take it easy for a while.

Next on the menu-- neighboring restaurant Pascolo, owned by the Farmhouse Group, will move into the space.

Sweetwaters’ employees won’t be left out of work. Melincoff says they will be welcomed into the Farmhouse Group, wishing them even more success than he saw.

“So it just felt like it was a win-win-win. A win for them, a win for me and a win for the community and the employees,” he said.

Sweetwaters is known for several things: a huge outdoor seating area, a big menu and their free Thanksgiving meals.

“I kind of feel like we were the conduit but so many people donated their time or product or money to make the whole thing work, so I think it just implies what Vermont is about,” Melincoff said.

With such a long tenure on Church Street, Melincoff cites accessibility as their key to 41 years of success.

“Being able to be accommodating, accessible to everybody. Families, young students coming in here, couples, older people and stuff like that for celebrations and things of that nature,” he said. “I learned a long time ago when I moved to Vermont, Tony Perry who started this restaurant always ingrained in me Vermont being a small community-- probably smaller than it is now-- but that we had to be able to accommodate a bank president and a farmer right next to each other. So I think Sweetwaters has always kept that philosophy.”

That’s what brought in Rosemary Mayo for a farewell lunch. The Burlington resident has been eating at Sweetwaters for at least 15 years.

“It’s a great restaurant, I feel like when we don’t know where we want to go to eat, this is a perfect option. And it always feels so welcoming with kids,” Mayo said.

Other local diners are drawn to the space for the location.

“It’s Church Street. It’s Labor Day, everyone is wandering around, there’s a bike race, got good french fries. Good company. Lot of people wandering around, what a day,” said Dennis Desprois of Burlington.

Sweetwaters has drawn locals and tourists alike. Kyle Irwin, from Pennsylvania, visits the restaurant every year while in town for the Green Mountain Stage Race.

“It’s an awesome place to sit on the course and watch the race go by,” Irwin said. “I know every time I was racing myself, every time I come by you always hear people cheering you on and everything.”

He says he’ll miss it, too.

“I mean this is definitely one of the most hoppin’ places on the course, so it’s definitely going to be sad not seeing them here next year,” Irwin said.

As for Melincoff, he’ll work at Stowe as a snowboarding instructor during the winters and he plans to relax during the summer.

But first-- a final day at Sweetwaters, full of memories, goodbyes and thank-you’s.

“I’ve only cried half a dozen times,” he said.

Sweetwaters’ last seating is Monday at 8 p.m., though they had quite a wait all weekend.

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Burlington restaurant to close after 41 years