© ‚ÄĒ Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
New construction next to The Keg
Rob Moore‚Äôs 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 ‚ÄĒ the company building two restaurants on Harbour Drive next to the Keg ‚ÄĒ is hoping Legros and Motti will be a downtown destination for residents and tourists. With 367 seats in the 10,000-square foot space ‚ÄĒ not including the second restaurant ‚ÄĒ it‚Äôs going to need to be.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs big on every scale,‚ÄĚ he said. The concept for Legros and Motti, said Moore, is a cross between a French bistro and an Italian trattoria ‚ÄĒ ‚Äúupper-end casual,‚ÄĚ said Moore ‚ÄĒ with the names coming from two sets of grandparents.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve been working on this probably four years,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôve spent 32 years travelling, and looking at ideas, and what I‚Äôve learned over my career, especially in the last four to five years travelling, I‚Äôve put into a concept that, hopefully, will blow this city away. We‚Äôre putting a lot into this.‚ÄĚ
When Harbour Walk ‚ÄĒ sister company to the Millennium Group, which also owns the Keg ‚ÄĒ submitted its plan to St. John‚Äôs council in 2011 for the restaurants, being built on land leased from the St. John‚Äôs Port Authority, the project was criticized because the authority didn‚Äôt 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. John‚Äôs 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.
‚ÄúI have people say, ‚ÄėGeez, Rob, thank God you‚Äôre doing this downtown and not up on Kenmount Road.‚Äô There‚Äôs some, I guess, jealousy, and there‚Äôs some legit, ‚ÄėWhy didn‚Äôt we get the chance to get this property?‚Äô (But) I don‚Äôt apologize for being the first guy to go out and get the property. I‚Äôve often been the second guy, and I lick my wounds and get on with life.‚ÄĚ
And the bumpy road won‚Äôt be over when the building is finished ‚ÄĒ 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.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs going to be a challenge,‚ÄĚ‚Äąhe said. ‚ÄúFront of house ‚ÄĒ servers ‚ÄĒ doesn‚Äôt scare me a lot, because they tend to flock wherever they feel they can make the most money off tables.‚ÄĚ
As for parking, Legros and Motti will meet requirements by city regulations, but Moore is banking on the completion of a new parking garage on‚ÄąWater Street to help alleviate downtown parking pressure.
Moore wouldn‚Äôt comment on who will occupy the second restaurant, long rumored to be Chinese food franchise P.F. Chang‚Äôs.
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 won‚Äôt say what the current cost is ‚ÄĒ ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt think our bankers want that on the street,‚ÄĚ he says, chuckling ‚ÄĒ but does say it‚Äôs the most expensive restaurant currently under construction in Canada.
‚ÄúThere‚Äôs a lot of talk throughout the region right now on this,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs restaurateurs in Halifax talking about what we‚Äôre putting on the harbourfront in St. John‚Äôs, Newfoundland.‚ÄĚ