A new restaurant located at the site that most recently housed The Riverhead Project could open by the end of March.
Owners Matt Demar and John Cestare, who updated the Riverhead Town Board on their plans for the building at at meeting Thursday, said they plan to feature live music as well as food at the location, which will likely be called Sonoma Grill. The pair signed a lease in November.
The two, who have owned and run restaurants all over the country, indicated that they may also seek to open additional restaurants in downtown Riverhead depending on how successful the Sonoma venture is.
The two, who own a restaurant by the same Sonoma Grill name in Holtsville, said they encouraged Perabell Food Bar to open a location in downtown Riverhead, at the former Cody’s BBQ site. That restaurant is expected to open later this year as well.
“We own restaurants and we do consulting,” Demar told the town’s board members. “We have a bunch of different brands, including Wahlburgers, with Donnie and Mark Wahlburg, Senor Frogs, and McFaddens. We go all over the country. Right now, we’re in Orlando, opening four places right across from Disney. We’ve been in the business for 25 years.”
“Sonoma Grill is a very family-friendly restaurant,” Cestare added. “They have pizzas, wraps, burgers, pastas, chicken parms, chicken francais. They have a great drink program, like a Las Vegas-style drink program.”
Cestare said they also want to have live music, playing “classic songs” from the 1970s and 80s. Because of the music, the project is considered a “tavern” under the town code and will require a special permit from the Town Board. That, in turn, requires a public hearing before it can be approved.
Having bars and restaurants is key to building up downtown Riverhead, Demar said.
“When you have a bunch of restaurants and bars like Huntington and Babylon and Patchogue, you have young people fluctuate from all over the place,” he said. “When you have certain amounts of the young people coming, they say, ‘Wow, this is a cool place, I could see myself living here.’ And that’s what helps brings for apartments and rentals and things.”
He believes Riverhead needs to improve its nightlife.
“The stores will come if there’s enough bars and restaurants and people,” Demar said.
While taverns are allowed to be open until 4 a.m., Demar said they will likely start closing down by 2 a.m.
“It’s certainly something lacking in downtown Riverhead,” Councilman Jim Wooten said of the live music proposal.
“So, when are you coming?” Supervisor Sean Walter said. “I’m so excited about this.”
None of the board members voiced any opposition to the proposal, but the board must still schedule the public hearing before it can be approved.
“We’re looking to open at the end of March,” Demar said. “We’re moving forward 100 percent.”
Walter said they could open the restaurant before they get the special permit, so long as they don’t have live music.