Are you a longtime chef looking to open your own restaurant? Or maybe the owner of an existing eatery with an eye toward expanding along the Peconic Bay?
If so, the New Suffolk Waterfront Fund wants to hear from you.
The non-profit announced Wednesday that it’s seeking responses to a request for proposals (RFP) from experienced restaurant professionals interested in operating the approved 66-seat café on its 2.4-acre waterfront property.
Waterfront fund officials said in an interview this week that they hope to have a lease signed before the end of the year with an operator who can open by May 1. Site tours will be given by appointment only Sept. 14 and proposals will be due Oct. 20. A decision is expected Nov. 16.
The Waterfront Fund has now begun working with local food purveyors and the media to spread the word about the need for a restaurant operator.
“We want as many people as possible to know that this opportunity exists,” said New Suffolk Waterfront Fund board member Patricia Lowry, who serves as chair of the RFP committee. “We’re looking for someone who really wants to be a part of the community.”
Lowry said the nonprofit has received “some nibbles,” from people interested in operating the café, which is the former Galley Ho restaurant at Main and First streets, where renovations are currently underway. New windows and doors have been installed on the building and siding and decking has begun. A future step will be to complete the electrical work in the building and install a septic system. All the work will be done by contractors with businesses in Southold Town, committee members noted.
The Galley Ho operated as a restaurant and bar before the property was purchased by the Waterfront Fund in 2007. The organization was established a year before that to purchase and manage the waterfront property and protect it from more dense development. The building was later damaged during Hurricane Sandy.
The current project has garnered strong criticism, and even a lawsuit, from neighbors who accuse the group of wanting to hold special events like weddings as a way to make money on a property that has long been viewed as a community treasure. Southold Town approved the restaurant last November and Waterfront Fund chair Patricia McIntyre said the organization has been informed that a judge plans to dismiss the pending litigation.
“We’re waiting to receive the paperwork,” she said.
McIntyre called the RFP process a welcome milestone in the nearly decade-long project.
“It’s such a lovely location and we’re looking forward to working with someone interested in providing a causal, low-key dining experience,” she said.
“The Galley Ho became such a beloved place,” added Lowry. “We want the new operator to be a person who understands that.”
Caption: A view of the café in its current state as renovations continue.