|New restaurant helping to anchor Long Branch redevelopment
By DAVID P. WILLIS
The Associated Press
LONG BRANCH, N.J. - Tim McLoone saw what happened to Long Branch's waterfront over the years.
"I ran by here all the time, watching it literally fall into the ocean," said McLoone of Little Silver, an avid runner, musician and owner of McLoone's Riverside Restaurant in Sea Bright for nearly 18 years. "It used to break everyone's heart just to see it crumbling into the ocean."
Now McLoone's newest restaurant and banquet facility, McLoone's Pier House, is a centerpiece of Long Branch's redevelopment efforts in an area along the beach called Pier Village.
McLoone, 57, expects to open the restaurant's second-floor dining room on a limited basis when it is not being used for banquets, starting with brunch this Sunday. He expects to open the entire restaurant by Memorial Day.
McLoone already has hosted two weddings and two fund-raisers at the restaurant. Last Friday, after Mother's Day reservations filled his Sea Bright restaurant, he started booking tables at the Pier House.
"The word spread, and we booked about 600 people in three days," said McLoone. "I am hoping it is a good sign."
Last week, workers were putting the finishing touches on the 15,240-square-foot restaurant's interior.
When it opens, it will seat up to 250 on the first floor, up to 300 in a dining room on the second floor, which also will be used for banquets and weddings, and 75 seats outdoors for casual dining on the new boardwalk.
The rectangular glass and steel building sits right on the beach. A main feature is its 150 feet of ocean views. Large doors open on both floors, flooding the room with sea breezes and the sound of the ocean.
"We determined that here we would have all window seats," McLoone said. "The people coming in here, they almost audibly gasp. I wish I could take credit for the ocean."
Architect Michael J. Monroe, owner and president of MJM Services in Red Bank, said the building was designed to be lively on all sides.
"It is almost like being on a cruise ship. It almost has that kind of feeling to it, which was kind of neat," Monroe said. "We had to have a building that took advantage of the views and it had to look good on all four sides."
The interior of the restaurant had an upscale beach house concept designed by Jeff Cahill, owner of Cahill Studio Inc. in Eatontown.
The restaurant has been in the works for about four years, part of redevelopment efforts headed by Applied Development Co. along the waterfront between Laird Street and Morris Avenue.
The Pier Village project consists of 420 rental apartments and 100,000 square feet of retail space. McLoone's Pier House Restaurant is the first business to open.
"He is a great local operator," said Greg Russo, vice president at Applied Development. "He has got fantastic name recognition. He does an unbelievable catering and wedding business, which adds another dimension" to the restaurant.
In addition to his restaurant activities, McLoone is well known as the founder of Holiday Express, a group of area musicians and singers who get together primarily during the Christmas season each year to perform in hospitals for sick children.
McLoone credits a good relationship with the developer and the city of Long Branch. "It would not have happened if the relationship was not so mutually positive."
Initially, the restaurant was slated to be one floor with high ceilings. But McLoone convinced Applied Development that a second floor for weddings and banquets would work. McLoone agreed to pay for the construction himself, upping his investment in the project to $4 million.
In return, Applied, which paid $2 million toward construction, only charges him rent on the second floor based on a percentage of revenue. McLoone rents the rest of the building by the square foot as part of a 20-year lease.
"It is about double what we expected it to be," McLoone said. "I was 100 percent convinced that this was the way to go. The demand for waterfront banquet space is virtually untapped."
McLoone has nine other investors in the restaurant and most of them are investors in his Sea Bright restaurant as well.
"Everyone who was invested in Sea Bright got a gratis investment here," said McLoone, who is the majority owner. "It seemed like an ethical thing to do," he said, given the seven-mile distance between the two restaurants.
McLoone said he expects the new restaurant will be more casual than its sister business to the north. For instance, McLoone's Pier House doesn't have tablecloths, while the Sea Bright restaurant does.
The restaurant's menu will have a lobster theme, as well as other seafood, beef and chicken dishes. Prices for the inside dining area will range between $15 and $50. "I don't want to price a lot of people out of here," McLoone said.
Outside dining, called the Pier Pub & Grill, will feature dishes such as burgers, sushi and a raw bar, with prices from $10 to $25.
But don't expect to light up a cigarette at the new restaurant. McLoone said smoking will not be allowed.
Information from: Asbury Park Press, http://www.app.com
May 15, 2005 9:49 AM