After nearly 50 years at the Bearsville Theater complex, now known as the Bearsville Center, the Little Bear Chinese restaurant will bid farewell.
“With much sadness in our hearts, we would like to inform our loyal customers as of September 30, 2021, The Little Bear restaurant will be closing its doors at the current location,” owner MarLee Koo and staff said in a written statement. “The landlord has decided to no longer allow this landmark restaurant to operate on the premises of the Bearsville Center — she has other ideas for the use of this building.”
Koo said she is not retiring and plans to reopen in a new location “to serve you for many years to come.” She declined to comment any further and said through a friend that she is busy preparing for the closing.
A post on the Little Bear Facebook page said, “Dearest Patrons, The rumors are true. We are being forced out of our location at the Bearsville Complex.”
In a statement released Tuesday, September 21, Bearsville Center owner Lizzie Vann confirmed that the restaurant will no longer operate in its longtime location after September 30.
“There has never been any discussion about raising the rent,” Vann said in the statement. “The Little Bear building had not been properly cared for, maintained, or deep cleaned on a regular basis for many many years. All the other buildings at Bearsville have had substantial work done since the change of ownership. But now we need to do the same with The Little Bear.”
She has heard negativity surrounding the closing. “We are seeing many comments about the closure of the Little Bear Restaurant, and are saddened by this. The actions that we are accused of are unkind, inaccurate and unfair to the team of people who have spent the last two years saving Bearsville from falling down.”
And Vann invited the community to a meeting to talk about the closing. “Yes, we are accountable to this community, and we recognize clearly that many of you are extremely upset and ‘want answers’ about the closing of The Little Bear,” she said. “So, we invite the local community at large to Bearsville to discuss this and any other issues you are concerned about. We would like to show you the work we have done and continue to do throughout Bearsville at 10 a.m. on October 1.”
Vann purchased the complex in August 2019. Many of the buildings suffered from severe water damage and neglect and have undergone extensive renovation under Vann’s ownership. The Petersen House on the complex is now home to Nancy’s Artisanal Creamery and Tinker Street Tavern. The Bear Cantina has replaced the Bear Cafe.
Vann, the founder of British baby food company Organic, has lived in Woodstock since 2013.
Koo had worked under Sha Wu, who had been brought in to run the Little Bear in its early days. When Sha Wu left, Sally Grossman, wife of complex founder Albert Grossman, asked Koo to take over the restaurant.