Jewel of India, unable to renew lease, will close by end of June

by Jennifer Chen | 1/24/20 2:10am

Jewel of India, a family-owned Hanover mainstay, will not be able to renew its lease with the College — the owner of the property on which it resides — and will close by the end of June. Jewel of India co-owner Surjit Kaur said that she wants to renew the lease on the building, but the College is interested in developing a mixed-use structure on the property instead. 

College spokesperson Diana Lawrence wrote in an email that Jewel of India was notified about the lease not being extended in December 2018. Kaur said that she only learned about the lack of a lease renewal two weeks ago when she and her husband visited the College’s real estate office. A few days ago, a Jewel of India customer posted on the Upper Valley Facebook group page, bringing attention to the restaurant’s lease issues and prompting concern in the Hanover community. 

Kaur said that since 1992, Jewel of India has served the local community with traditional, North Indian cuisine at affordable prices. She added that Dartmouth began buying out town property in 2002, including Jewel of India — which has leased the building from the College since. 

“I don’t know how we can solve [the building issue],” Kaur said. “If Dartmouth allowed us to repair the second floor, we can do it.”

According to Hanover town manager Julia Griffin, the building has been in “really poor shape” for years. Griffin noted that the top floor, which used to be an apartment rented out to Dartmouth students, has been uninhabited since Dartmouth bought the property in 2002 because of its buckling floors and walls. She added that the basement has mold issues, leaking and significant plumbing problems. 

“It’s a very tired, old property,” Griffin said. 

Lawrence echoed similar concerns about the property. 

“The building that they occupy — which was constructed in 1910 — requires significant capital improvement, and the cost to repair and remediate hazardous materials is greater than the cost of tearing down the building,” Lawrence wrote.  

Griffin also expressed concerns about the restaurant’s struggle to abide by New Hampshire’s health code. 

According to New Hampshire Department Health and Human Services documents, the restaurant has had past health code violations. After a routine inspection on May 29, 2018, the restaurant was found to have seven priority violations. The violations included cleanliness issues such as storing food in coolers that had flies, storing raw chicken that dripped over sauces and handling ready-to-eat food with bare hands. The restaurant passed a follow-up inspection with zero priority violations on June 5 of that same year, according to public inspection records. 

These reasons, according to Griffin, led the town to pressure the College into making a decision: either invest in significant renovations or schedule the building for demolition. 

Dartmouth has chosen to raze the building without clear plans for future development, Griffin said. 

“The College will begin long-term planning this year for future development of a mixed-use structure on the property within the Sargent Block area,” Lawrence wrote.  

Lawrence added that although Dartmouth does not currently have available restaurant space to rent, the College has referred the owners of Jewel of India to commercial brokers in Hanover. 

This decision has left the restaurant owners with few options. 

“We don’t know after June 30 where we can go,” Kaur said. “We don’t know yet. We want to run the restaurant more years ... We love students. We love the Hanover community.” 

Students have expressed mixed feelings about the news that the only Indian restaurant in town is closing. 

Janvi Kalra ’21 expressed her disappointment in the loss of the restaurant, but she remained optimistic. 

“I would hope that, similarly, the Orient got shut down, but Han Fusion came, which is kind of a better version,” Kalra said. “I would hope that it’s an opportunity for another Indian restaurant to pop up or perhaps for the Jewel of India to find another location in Hanover.” 

Sunpreet Singh ’20, who said he knows the owners well, voiced his disappointment that the College has not found an alternate location for Jewel of India. 

“I think that there’s gonna be conversations between the South Asian society and the administration to ... see if they can help them find another place,” Singh said. 

Kaur, whose daughter graduated from Dartmouth a few years ago, said that she hopes to stay in Hanover. She noted that if they cannot find a place to lease in Hanover, they would consider opening a restaurant in West Lebanon, where they live. 

“Or maybe after this, no more,” Kaur said, with a small laugh. “My husband, he is already 69. I’m also 56, 57. We don’t know how many more years we can work right now.”