A Portsmouth bookstore offers a place to drink, eat, and socialize

Above (from left): Elke Harrison of Ontario has a glass of wine as she reads at the Book & Bar in Portsmouth, N.H.;  olive oil cake with lemon curd is one of the desserts.
Above (from left): Elke Harrison of Ontario has a glass of wine as she reads at the Book & Bar in Portsmouth, N.H.; olive oil cake with lemon curd is one of the desserts. PHOTOS BY CHERYL SENTER FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

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PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Housed in a stately granite building that was once a customs house and Post Office, the Portsmouth Book & Bar complements perfectly the well-scrubbed cobblestones of the downtown streets. The imposing granite exterior gives way to an airy open floor plan. The walls are sparely adorned with posters for the performers that have given concerts here.

There is an actual bar, of course, a small marble number with eight draft lines and as many high-backed stools. Customers lay claim to the small tables in front of the bar, squinting at laptops and paperbacks over coffee or beer.

The Book & Bar, opened last December, is a hybrid of two businesses notoriously difficult to launch, but it has won a following.

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