Zozo’s Tavern in Burlington keeps community traditions alive

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Zozo’s Tavern, named after owner Alan Lou’s daughter, keeps the sense of community alive in the building that has always represented just that.

Located on the corner of Jefferson Street in downtown Burlington, the building has been many things, but always a spot for the community. In 1849 it was a hotel, after that, Burlington’s first hardware store.

“We have a lot of regulars walk in and say, ‘man I remember when this was a hardware store’,” owner Alan Lau told LINK nky. “People would park their car right out front and stop in for what they needed, sometimes tools, sometimes just a conversation.”

Now, Zozo’s operates as a sushi and noodles restaurant in what Lau describes as “date food,” with lots of shareables and variety.

Attached to the restaurant is a bourbon bar which Lau bought from the original owner two years after he opened Zozo’s in 2019. The original owner sold him the bar for the price of a dollar a year. 

On the wall, hundreds of bourbons can be found next to a quaint fireplace and original gold cash register from the building’s hotel days.

“It’s a local destination bar,” said Lau. “Every weekend I have our traditional customers with their special tables all set up, and then just last night I had a couple that comes in every Wednesday to chat with their friends. Then there’s the dutchman, a gun club who comes here to eat and chat before their regular meetings.”

After opening in November of 2019, the sense of community that carried Zozo’s to success continued as they navigated the pandemic.

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“We just said ‘we are open for carry-out! Here’s our phone number,’ and the community really supported us,” Lau said. “This community has a lot of love as we are all local to Burlington with kids that grow up here and people that have lived here their whole lives. Everybody that comes in here knows somebody.”

As Lau alludes much of Zozo’s success to the community, he constantly gives back to it.

“We always try to have special events,” Lau said. “Every year at Christmas I do a Santa Claus, where you take a picture with Santa and he gives you a special present. Eating at the restaurant isn’t necessary, just being a good kid is.”

So stop in for some “date food,” any kind of bourbon you can think of, or for a simple sense of community that reigns through the walls of Zozo’s Tavern.

A closer look at some of the bourbon displayed at Zozo’s Tavern. Photo provided | Grace Tierney LINK nky

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