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GoggleWorks to open restaurant, bar as part of new entertainment thrust

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GoggleWorks Center for the Arts will open a new restaurant and bar. (Contributed)
GoggleWorks Center for the Arts will open a new restaurant and bar. (Contributed)

The GoggleWorks Center for the Arts expects to open a restaurant and bar by the end of the summer, the first of several entertainment and dining projects planned for the arts complex in downtown Reading.

Belly Kitchen & Drinkery will take a fresh, contemporary approach to American cuisine influenced by the international travels of its chef Jim Churchman, said Levi Landis, executive director of GoggleWorks.

About 250,000 people a year visit GoggleWorks, a large arts and culture center which takes its name from the former Willson Goggle Factory in which it’s housed.

The 3,100 square-foot restaurant and bar replace a small café on the ground floor.

“The vision of this restaurant is quite a bit more encompassing,” Landis said.

Belly will be the kind of place where visitors to the art galleries can have a local farm-to-table meal and craft beer and also appeal to “dads who are dropping off their kids at ballet can have a burger and beer,” he said.

Belly Kitchen & Drinkery will have seating capacity for about 70 people and can accommodate a larger, standing crowd of about 350 people with the adjoining concert area.

Lunch, dinner and weekend brunches will be served and it will have its own on-site catering service. The bar will feature craft beers from Sly Fox Brewing Co. of Pottstown, which will sponsor an indoor stage for music and other performing arts.

Like GoggleWorks, Belly will have an “industrial chic” look, and makes liberal use of reclaimed wood and other items, such as an old pipe that was found in the building, Landis said.

“It has a very raw look, with the exposed beams. We wanted to expand on that and create something more intimate and warm for folks,” he said. “When we expanded the bar, we used reclaimed wood from pallets used for glass, and you can see the logo from the glass company. It drives home that feeling that it’s reused.”

Landis said GoggleWorks’ new liquor license enables it to plan for more and varied events in other parts of the complex. He said it hopes to open a beer garden on Thorn Street, a closed alley next to the building.

“In the meantime, we’re going to offer craft beer in cans that people can take into our film theater and our parking lot for our arts festival in October. “

The former Willson Goggle Factory, which opened in 1871, made eyeglass lenses, safety goggles and other protective gear for miners and other workers. It sat vacant for many years and was headed for the wrecking ball until it was saved by the late department store mogul Albert Boscov and his nonprofit organization, Our City Reading, and retired industrialist Marlin Miller. It opened in 2005.

The complex features dozens of artists’ studios, exhibition galleries, a 130-seat theater and a gift store featuring handcrafted works from more than 200 artists. GoggleWorks rents space for events, including business meetings, conferences and weddings.

The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.

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