Eateries eye harbour front

Dave Bartlett
Published on January 27, 2011
This architectural drawing shows what a proposed building, housing two restaurants, will look like.
Submitted photo

The owners of the Keg Restaurant want to beef up their presence on the St. John’s harbour front by building two additional restaurants just to the east of the Keg.

The Harbour Walk Hospitality Group Inc. has submitted a plan to the city to build one two-storey building, which would house both restaurants — with a common entrance on Harbour Drive — at a cost of $10 million.

Two of the partners, Leo Power and Wayne Moore, attended a city planning committee meeting on Wednesday to pitch the project to members of council.

“We think what we are proposing is a good project for downtown,” Power said at the meeting.

Originally the plan was to build a 30,000-square-foot building on the site, but Power said the group received some negative feedback, so they reduced the size of their proposal to a 16,000-square-foot building, about twice the size of the Keg.

He told the committee that between him and his two partners, they have 75 years’ experience in the food and beverage industry, and beyond the Keg, own the Fog City restaurants and a number of other businesses in town.

The developers have applied for franchises to go into the proposed building, but said they couldn’t reveal which restaurants, as they have yet to secure the franchise rights.

Power said it was possible that one of the new restaurants could be an independent. The development would also add 19 parking spaces, which is in accordance with the city’s downtown parking study, and the city’s engineering department had no issues with servicing the new building.

The developers have already secured a long-term lease from the St. John’s Port Authority, which owns the land, and the proposal meets the authorities master plan.

The restaurants would not be built in a designated heritage area and don’t block public views of the harbour.

But Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff had some concerns about how the project may affect the view from the hotel in the Murray Premises.

She did say the proposed development was better than putting a warehouse back on the site — Ozark Electric and D.F. Barnes Ltd. used to have a warehouse there.

The city’s director of planning, Cliff Johnston, said this development would be the last for the west end of the harbour front as everything east sits over water and is therefore undevelopable.

The new restaurant would generate at least $100,000 a year in tax revenue for the city and create about 250 full- and part-time jobs once it’s built.

It’s estimated the construction would also create “100 man years” of employment.

Ward 1 Coun. Danny Breen was quick to make a motion to accept the proposal and that was seconded by Coun. Tom Hann.

But Duff asked for a public meeting on the development. Couns. Debbie Hanlon and Sheilagh O’Leary were also in favour of a public meeting, but that idea was voted down.

The development will instead be advertised to gather public opinion on the planned development.

Once that has been done, the proposal will still have to go to a full meeting of St. John’s city council for final approval.

If the city approves the development, Power said construction is planned to begin this summer, and should be completed in 18 to 24 months.