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Mystic — An extensive renovation of the former Flood Tide Restaurant culminated Monday in a ribbon-cutting ceremony that unveiled the Inn at Mystic’s newly opened Harbour House restaurant that is part of a nearly $1 million restoration of the landmark property.
About 100 people walked past three penguins from Mystic Aquarium that greeted them just inside the Harbour House doors following the official opening, which featured a ribbon cutting by the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut. Inside the new 160-seat Harbour House, where a deck area is still under construction, they enjoyed drinks and hors d’oeuvres as they commented about the lightened up space that takes full advantage of breathtaking water views.
“I really get the feeling that this will appeal to all kinds of visitors,” said Ed Dombroskas, executive director of the Eastern Connecticut Regional Tourism District. “It’s great, because this is an icon of the region.”
“I’m highly impressed and excited that this facility is back in the game,” added Tony Sheridan, chief executive and president of the chamber.
Co-owner Timothy J. Brown of Noank, who is the resort’s president and general manager, said he has been dreaming of owning the 14-acre Inn at Mystic property ever since he moved to the area more than two decades ago to become vice president of hotel operations for Foxwoods Resort Casino. He considered buying the resort a year and a half ago when it went on the market at $8.5 million, but waited until the price dropped substantially before closing on the property in March for $5.35 million.
Brown, at the ribbon cutting, recalled sitting with business partner Michael D’Amato in Miami when they hatched plans to make a bid on the Inn at Mystic.
“We’re going to bring this place back to the glory it deserves,” Brown said during the ceremony.
D’Amato, a Niantic resident and local builder, said he and Brown had expected it would take four to six months to reopen the restaurant, but thanks to the hard work of local contractors — including D’Amato Builders and Advisors LLC of Norwich — the timeline was sped up considerably, to less than three months.
“It took a lot of local support,” he said.
Brown said the restaurant, closed since November, will be open for lunch and dinner initially. Within about a week, it will begin serving breakfast as well, he added, and a Sunday brunch is being planned in the near future.
The restaurant is divided into three sections: the main lounge area that features 24 beers on tap, a smaller formal dining room and a more casual room overlooking the property’s 20-foot by 40-foot pool. The lounge’s mahogany bar was painstakingly restored to its original finish, and the ceilings sport a luxurious beadboard and copper combination.
Executive Chef Barry Correia, an award-winning culinary professional most recently with the Green Valley Country Club in Portsmouth, R.I., has designed a menu emphasizing seafood but carefully balancing moderately priced offerings ranging from steak to pasta to wood-fired flatbread pizzas.
“Everyone should find something they like about the place,” Brown said.
In addition to work on the restaurant, which eventually will include a new 50-seat deck, Brown said he is managing renovation of the inn’s 60 rooms. He expects once the inn is fully up and running that the location will require about 80 employees.
Renovations of the inn’s rooms will be done in stages, Brown said, approximately 20 units at a time. Rooms are being rented at the site, but numbers will be limited until all the renovation work is complete.
Accommodations encompass four structures: the Main Building, with 39 guestrooms; Harley Mansion, with five rooms; East Wing, with 12 rooms, and Gate House, four rooms. The mansion in the back of the property has been historically underutilized, but Brown hopes to promote it as a great place for corporate retreats, weddings and private parties.
Brown has additional plans for installing a fire pit, rehabbing the putting green, perhaps replacing the tennis court with beach volleyball and introducing canoe and kayak rentals that could be launched from the inn’s dock.
“No place else has the same view,” Brown said. “Name another property that sits on a hill and looks out to Fishers Island. It reminds me of Maine — Bar Harbor.”