Aspiring restaurant owner, Phil Villapiano explains the challenges of trying to open a restaurant during the state-wide mandated shutdown.
ALLENHURST, NJ: As Memorial Day Weekend nears, Jersey Shore restaurateurs are anxiously awaiting Governor Murphy’s order to lift the mandated lockdown on all non-essential businesses. While take-out and delivery has been an option for some restaurants, the fate of dine-in service this summer is still unknown – a concern for aspiring restaurant owner, Phil Villapiano, who was forced to halt construction on his up-and-coming restaurant, Deal Lake Bar + Co in Loch Arbour, NJ. Below, he details the affects the shutdown has had on the restaurant’s grand opening.
It’s been a life-long dream for Monmouth County native Phil Villapiano and his partners Greg Bartz and Andrea Pappas to own a restaurant. A dream they turned into reality in October 2019 when the trio purchased the former McGillicuddy’s Taphouse in Loch Arbour, NJ from the Allenhurst commercial real estate firm, Bielat Santore & Company. “We plan on opening a place that we’ve actually had our sights on for almost 20 years now,” said Villapiano. Immediately, the new proprietors got to work, closing the doors to undertake a complete overhaul to the lakefront property. “Once it started, we gutted it to the low-baring walls. We took everything out,” said Villapiano. “We’re just looking to build a completely new concept that we feel will fit the surrounding community very well; bringing in a whole lot of fun to the space.” But plans were halted when the government ordered all businesses to shut down, including construction to the restaurant.
It seems customers will have to wait a little longer for the grand opening of Deal Lake Bar + Co., originally scheduled to open June 12th, just in time for Father’s Day weekend. “We understand that public health is paramount here so no complaints,” said Villapiano. “We’re ready to comply with any rules set forth by local and state government.” The news is disappointing to residents who have been anticipating the opening, continuing to show their support through the restaurant’s social media. “Hopefully, this mandate does get lifted or some of the restrictions so we can start chipping away,” said Villapiano.
While the restaurant is still a work in progress, local customers can expect a completely new design and layout consisting of an open floor plan, additional bar area, extended outdoor patio and live entertainment. The creation of a new food concept and menu has been delegated to consulting Chef Chris Calabrese, owner and executive chef at Nettie’s House of Spaghetti, Tinton Falls, NJ. “We’re hoping we’ll have some really cool, unique twists on American bar and classics,” said Villapiano. The owners are also taking steps to ensure that customers can safely dine together while adhering to social distancing guidelines upon reopening.
Despite the setbacks, the owners are using this time to help the local community in need, selling limited addition t-shirts, donating 100 percent of the proceeds to “Fulfill,” a Monmouth and Ocean County food bank. For every donation received, the restaurant will match 100 percent of the donation as well. “This is our way of doing our part; to give back and get our word out there. Hopefully, it’s beneficial to everybody,” said Villapiano. The t-shirts, including the tagline, “work together, play together,” are available on the Deal Lake Bar + Co. website at https://www.deallakebarco.com/.
In the meantime, patrons are encouraged to follow Deal Lake Bar + Co.’s social media pages for updates on construction and a new grand opening date. “People have been craving for it to open back up, for an upgrade. We’re excited to fill that need,” said Villapiano. “We’ll be able to cheers together again soon.”
To view the full video interview, visit Bielat Santore & Company’s website at www.123bsc.com, Facebook https://www.facebook.com/123BSC/, and Vimeo page https://vimeo.com/bielatsantore and stay tuned for the next “Thursday Restaurant Rap” interview.