After 14 years at the helm of an important corner of the Barmuda Triangle, Con O’Mahoney has sold The Bell Tree Tavern to new owners who have no big plans to shake things up. Chase Hill and Dan Adams served on the same team at Fort Bragg, and will now be serving up lunch, dinner and cocktails in downtown Southern Pines seven days a week.
Chase was looking for a space to start his own restaurant downtown when he heard Con might be looking to make a change — and thought he’d “be dumb not to try” and make an offer. Con convinced Chase, who was introduced to the restaurant business by his father-in-law, that his best bet was not to start his own restaurant, but to purchase The Bell Tree’s established reputation and business model.
Ten months later, a contract was signed that secures The Bell Tree’s employees, in hopes to secure a smooth transition. The contract also keeps Con on as a consultant for six months.
“I’m proud of what we do, and what we offer,” Con says. “If I wasn’t proud of it, I wouldn’t offer it. I’m trying to instill that in them, that sense of pride. I want them to be successful, and hopefully, to take care of it like it’s their baby.”
Chase and Dan “aren’t looking to change much,” but want to make a few additions, like brunch with live music. Con still owns the building but the new owners plan to update the patio, explore the idea of converting the vacant upstairs into a banquet space and realize the potential for a rooftop bar. The adjacent space long reserved for Con’s idea of a “Prohibition Market,” with pantry staples, will be leased to Pineland Property Group. Realtor Michelle Bunch, of Pineland Property Group, helped broker the deal.
“You don’t have to necessarily end your night here, but if everybody comes here at least once in their night out, then we will be happy,” Chase says. “We want this to be the place.”
Con has been working in the restaurant industry for 40 years — he got his start at Vito’s, when it was located in Harbour Place. He took ownership of The Bell Tree Tavern in 2009. It got its start as a bar, but over the years has grown to be a restaurant, too, offering a completely different vibe at 11 a.m. and 11 p.m.
Con says he’s looking forward to doing other things, like taking a trip he paid for five years ago. “It’s a big adjustment, and there is some separation anxiety. It’s tough, but it’s a good thing, for my health and sanity, but most of all my family.”