© â Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
New construction next to The Keg
Rob Mooreâs harbourfront restaurant project has faced challenges since before shovel hit dirt and those challenges will continue even after completion.
But Moore, 53, president of Harbour Walk Hospitality â the company building two restaurants on Harbour Drive next to the Keg â is hoping Legros and Motti will be a downtown destination for residents and tourists. With 367 seats in the 10,000-square foot space â not including the second restaurant â itâs going to need to be.
âItâs big on every scale,â he said. The concept for Legros and Motti, said Moore, is a cross between a French bistro and an Italian trattoria â âupper-end casual,â said Moore â with the names coming from two sets of grandparents.
âIâve been working on this probably four years,â he said. âIâve spent 32 years travelling, and looking at ideas, and what Iâve learned over my career, especially in the last four to five years travelling, Iâve put into a concept that, hopefully, will blow this city away. Weâre putting a lot into this.â
When Harbour Walk â sister company to the Millennium Group, which also owns the Keg â submitted its plan to St. Johnâs council in 2011 for the restaurants, being built on land leased from the St. Johnâs Port Authority, the project was criticized because the authority didnât put the land out to tender. And with the size of the building becoming clear as the structure is erected, online commenters have raised concerns about it blocking the view of
St. Johnâs harbour.
Moore suggests criticism from other downtown bar and restaurant owners is overblown, since the new restaurants will draw people into the area instead of pulling them out of the downtown core.
âI have people say, âGeez, Rob, thank God youâre doing this downtown and not up on Kenmount Road.â Thereâs some, I guess, jealousy, and thereâs some legit, âWhy didnât we get the chance to get this property?â (But) I donât apologize for being the first guy to go out and get the property. Iâve often been the second guy, and I lick my wounds and get on with life.â
And the bumpy road wonât be over when the building is finished â Moore acknowledges both parking availability and hiring will be difficult. He expects Legros and Motti will hire about 200 people, and says the restaurant should be open for business by the end of November, with the second restaurant open sometime the following spring.
âItâs going to be a challenge,ââhe said. âFront of house â servers â doesnât scare me a lot, because they tend to flock wherever they feel they can make the most money off tables.â
As for parking, Legros and Motti will meet requirements by city regulations, but Moore is banking on the completion of a new parking garage onâWater Street to help alleviate downtown parking pressure.
Moore wouldnât comment on who will occupy the second restaurant, long rumored to be Chinese food franchise P.F. Changâs.
Two and a half years ago, the price tag for both restaurants was estimated to be $10 million. More recently, the cost of Legros and Motti alone was expected to be $8 million, but the cost has gone well beyond that now, said Moore. He wonât say what the current cost is â âI donât think our bankers want that on the street,â he says, chuckling â but does say itâs the most expensive restaurant currently under construction in Canada.
âThereâs a lot of talk throughout the region right now on this,â he said. âThereâs restaurateurs in Halifax talking about what weâre putting on the harbourfront in St. Johnâs, Newfoundland.â