Compass Tavern will be the district’s wood-fired kitchen

WORCESTER — The owner of the Worcester Railers and Worcester Ice Center is revamping a well-known Canal District restaurant into a family-run restaurant offering dishes with a twist of wood-fired cooking.

The Compass Tavern will close in mid-February, undergo a $500,000 renovation and reopen April 12, the same day the Worcester Red Sox take to the field for their home opener at Polar Park.

Cliff Rucker will be the majority owner of the new restaurant called The District Wood Fired Kitchen, according to Eric Lindquist, director of communications for Rucker’s other restaurant, Nashville-themed Off the Rails on Commercial Street.

Rucker owns the Compass Tavern building at 90 Harding Street, but the restaurant and bar have been run for seven years by David Domenick, who is stepping down after years of working seven days a week.

“It’s just time,” he said.

Domenick has run restaurants and nightclubs in the city for 36 years and said after some minor surgeries he plans to get back to work. Although he doesn’t know what his next venture might be, he said he won’t include selling alcohol until 2 a.m.

District Wood Fired Grill managing partner Chris Besaw said he plans to be “very active” there and at Off the Rails, which includes a new outdoor music venue also due to open in April. .

Rick Araujo, another managing partner of the new venture, has been named chief, Lindquist said.

Besaw said The District will be “blue collar” with American fare and forgo dance parties for a more family-friendly atmosphere. This should work cohesively with the nearby Worcester Ice Center, another family-friendly venue, and nearby Polar Park, which draws crowds to WooSox games all summer long.

There will still be televisions in the District, but the bar will have more of an American flavor, although plans for the interior have not been finalized.

The District will have expanded patio space for outdoor dining and is somewhat unique as it is one of the few restaurants in the Canal District to have dedicated parking for customers.

Rucker also owns the large car park next to The District, between the Worcester Ice Center and St. John’s Church on Temple Street.

The Compass Tavern’s proximity to the church put Domenick at the center of some of Worcester’s most difficult times.

It hosted hundreds of public safety personnel and mourners after the funerals of firefighter Christopher Roy, fire lieutenant Jason Menard and Worcester police officer Manny Familia.

“It’s always, 100%, about service and making people feel better during the worst times,” Domenick said. “It’s very humiliating.”

Joshua B. Speller