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Portsmouth VFW building may be sold to State Street Saloon owner

Union Leader Correspondent

November 20. 2017 10:14PM
A fire destroyed this iconic local bar in Portsmouth in April. Now, the business may have a new location if an agreement can be reached on the Portsmouth VFW building. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

PORTSMOUTH — Locals who miss the State Street Saloon may have a new spot for their favorite watering hole.

Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Portsmouth voted to sell their building on Deer Street over the weekend. According to city councilor and VFW member Josh Denton, who is an Iraq War veteran, this means officers can negotiate with the owner of the iconic downtown bar.

The saloon was destroyed during a large fire in April. Since then, the saloon’s owner, Eli Sokorelis, has been looking for another downtown location for the establishment. Sokorelis and his family members have also been focused on 12 Ocean Grill, a Seabrook Beach bar that opened earlier this year.

Denton said Monday that even though there are thousands of restaurant seats in Portsmouth — more than the entire population — people still want State Street Saloon to reopen because they crave that “Cheers” feeling.

Denton said he was a State Street Saloon customer.

He added that people have been thanking VFW members for making the return of the saloon a possibility.

“There’s been an outpouring of support,” Denton said.

Portsmouth resident and VFW member Harold Whitehouse, who is a World War II and Korean War veteran, said making the decision about whom to sell the building to is up to the commander and other officers. He said members of the VFW trust these officers.

He added that the VFW has had financial and recruitment problems over the years.

The building needs repairs and membership is down. He said VFWs across the nation are having similar issues.

“As the older members pass on, younger members don’t step forward,” Whitehouse said. “It’s very sad because I can remember after World War II, it was a very active post. There were lots of gatherings there.”

The Portsmouth VFW has a bar downstairs, and an open space upstairs with a kitchen.

Whitehouse said about 20 members turned out to vote Saturday.

An officer at the VFW did not want to comment Monday morning on any details of the potential sale.

Fires Business Portsmouth Veterans

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