February 6, 2023
The Popular Oxford Tavern packed them in

Cheers & tears. A beloved restaurant's last night

East Providence & the East Bay say goodbye to The Oxford Tavern

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Rumors began to circulate in November 2022 and earlier. The unthinkable was becoming a possibility to legions of loyal followers of the Oxford Tavern. The Waterman Avenue cozy restaurant may have to close people heard. Oxford's owners Alan and Lorree Manchester rent their restaurant space. City tax records list Waterman Avenue Properties LLC of Seekonk, Massachusetts as the property owners. The property was listed back in the summer of 2022 for $595,000.  An August ad promoted the property as a "great opportunity to buy a performing property with proven, uninterrupted cashflow. Well maintained and Turn-Key. Perfect to protect your retirement nest-egg and receive monthly income." A final sale price is unknown as of this writing. It is believed that the new property owner plans on raising the building to build a different business, possibly apartments. The 1/2 acre 4,420 Sq. Ft. parcel is zoned commercial.

“This is our last Friday in East Providence. Our building has been sold," said Oxford Tavern (OT) owner Alan Manchester in a post. "This was our last week of business in this location. Thank you for all of your continued support. We are looking for a new location and will keep you posted,” Manchester announced on social media to his legions of loyal customers. Scores of customers have mentioned potential new locations. The ideal place hasn't presented itself yet.

And loyal the OT customers are. They began lining up before the doors opened at 4 PM on Friday. Most had been regular customers since the Manchesters started the business in 2011. And they not only were from East Providence but from as far away as Taunton, Mass. and Cape Cod. Diners were from throughout the East Bay and of course all over East Providence, RI.

Littlenecks Portuguese Style with Chourico, Onions, Peppers and Kale with Quinta Aveleda Wine & Olive Oil; Hickory Smoked Bacon Wrapped Sea Scallops & Deep Fried with Sriracha Maple Glaze; Cowboy Bites, Bacon, Sweet Corn, Jalapeno, Onions & Cheese – Panko Crust – Deep Fried with Chipolte Honey Crema; were just a few of the over 25 main dishes on the final menu. All at reasonable prices.

“Best wishes to you guys. You’re an amazing, wonderful family and will be sorely missed,” writes the proprietor of another popular restaurant/pub in East Providence.

“Really hope to see you guys stay in the area, you are an amazing business and family,” was a comment echoed through the evening. “Wherever you go, I’ll be there to support your excellent business!” said another.

"I’m heartbroken! When you reopen I know you’ll let us all know. We will continue to support you," and on and on the praise continued.

The Manchester family has been looking for a new place to rent in East Providence, even reaching out via social media. "We are actively looking for restaurant space for lease or rent. If anyone knows of any available please let me know. Thank you for your continued support, kind words and thoughts," said Alan Manchester.

Waterman Avenue Properties LLC of Seekonk, Massachusetts has not yet returned a phonecall from this writer to discuss the property's plan and future. Built in 1940, the site was designed as a nightclub/bar. Current City tax records show in 2022 that the land value is $140,200, the main building is $203,300 with an out building at $4,600 for a total tax assessment of $348,100.

Denis and Denise from Swansea, Mass. said they were frequent visitors to the OT. "We understand that the building has been sold. We feel bad but we will follow them (OT owners) wherever they go.

Bob Carlin, a former East Providence resident now living in Taunton, is an admirer. "Great place, we come here from Taunton often. They will be missed."

All evening the place was packed. Every bar seat, every table and a line of patiently waiting fans, waiting for one more custom made meal and a chance to say goodbye and good luck to the Manchester family.

The unique kitchen is out in the open behind the bar. Patrons love to sit at the bar, sipping a drink while watching their meal prepared before their eyes. On this last night, chef Alan Manchester moved non-stop like a swift athlete in front of open fire and grills as he exchanged smiles with patrons while cooking several dishes at once. Understandably, much too busy to speak with a reporter tonight, he nodded yes when asked if we could snap some pictures. Somehow you knew that this was a scene repeated by Master Chef Manchester on every night that the OT was open. Cheers & tears for sure, for many.

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Disclosure:  As the writer of this piece, I also serve as the Councilman-at-Large in East Providence.  Certainly some have asked why the City didn't help Oxford Tavern stay in their location.  I, my council colleagues and I'm sure the Mayor's ofice, would have done something to prevent this, if possible.  The cold truth is that this was a legal property sale within that building owner's right.   We can't stop anyone from selling their home or business.  This is also a commercial zone with several other businesses nearby.  Real estate moves can prove to be greedy but not necessarily illegal.  I appreciate everything that Alan &  Lorree have done for the food culture of EP.  I sincerely hope they find a local place to rent.   If they do find a place, maybe grants, low interest loans, etc., could help them relocate. They have said they are not looking to buy.   A sad story for all.  Truly a night of Cheers & Tears.  -  Bob Rodericks  -

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