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Restaurant on the pier in New London won't happen this year

New London — A waterfront restaurant on City Pier appears to be on the horizon but won’t open this year.

The City Council on Monday approved a revised agreement with the owner of Sunset Ribs in Waterford, Frank Maratta, for lease of a portion of the city’s Custom House Pier, for a seasonal restaurant and water activity rental establishment.

Maratta said Tuesday that he was excited about the opportunity to liven up the city’s waterfront but it was too late in the season to start installing the four shipping containers he plans to use for the restaurant and bar.

“It’s a large investment and there is a lot of preliminary legwork to get done,” Maratta said.

He said he is likely to start building the restaurant off site to get it ready for next season. Maratta first pitched the idea for Whaling City Dock, and what he now is calling City Dock, to the city in 2018, hailing it as a way to bring life to the underutilized Waterfront Park. Some local restaurant owners have complained the city's agreement with Maratta gave him an unfair competitive edge over Bank Street businesses.

It took more than a year for the concept to obtain needed permits from entities that include the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Army Corps of Engineers, state Historic Preservation Office and more recently the National Park Service.

Terms of the lease made public on Monday show Maratta would lease a 9,000-square-foot portion of the pier, along with a dirt area north of the pier for $1,883 per month between April 15 and Oct. 15. The lease calls for payments of $2,300 per month and credits of $416 per month for investments by Maratta to improve the electrical, water and sewer service at the pier.

The three-year lease runs from through 2023 with options for three five-year extensions. Terms of the lease include payment of unspecified personal property taxes, removal of the restaurant in the off season and a responsibility to clean the adjacent public bathrooms and promote the waterfront. Maratta will also be required to provide a dock hand to assist incoming boats and taxi people to and from moorings. The restaurant will also rent items such as paddle boards, kayaks and fishing rods to the public.

Maratta, who also owns the Pavilion in Old Lyme, compared the restaurant business in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic to a boxer entering the ring with both hands tied behind his back. He said that while Sunset Ribs is holding its own, business at The Pavilion has suffered because of beach restrictions.

G.smith@theday.com

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