NL’s Hot Rod Cafe is up for sale
New London ― Despite recently listing his restaurant and bar for sale, Hot Rod Cafe owner Rod Cornish said he has no immediate plans to give up running the popular downtown destination he’s run for 18 years.
“Right now, I’m just exploring options for sale,” he said on Friday. “Now that we’re entering the slow season, I wanted to see what the property was worth and what interest there was out there.”
Listings for the 114 Bank St. gathering place are asking $1.2 million for the 4,158-square-foot building that features additional patio, porch and rooftop dining areas.
The restaurant closed last week to allow Cornish to tackle some maintenance, repair and upgrade work. While there is no firm reopening date, Cornish said he plans to keep patrons updated on the work’s progress via the business’s social media and main webpage.
“I’m reassessing what to do with the business and looking at all options, which is what a prudent businessman does,” he said. “No final decision has been made.”
A sign on the restaurant’s door on Saturday invited guests to visit his other location, Charlie’s Place Restaurant at 26 W. Main St. in Niantic.
Cornish, a 58-year-old New London native whose family’s connection to the city spans back generations, can recite the exact moment he took over the New London restaurant.
“December 15, 2005, at 11:30 a.m.,” he said. “This is a great operation that generates significant revenue.”
The listing states Cornish “consistently” tallied average weekly sales of $20,000 during the past two years.
Cornish said he’s particularly proud of Hot Rod’s no-frills, welcoming atmosphere and connection to the city it inhabits.
“The minute you walk in, there’s pictures of family,” he said. “We’ve sponsored sports teams here in the city, contributed to charities and hosted major life events for people here. Part of the proof of our success is you can walk in here and see people being comfortable, whether it’s (Electric Boat) workers, lawyers or bikers.”
Speculation that Cornish might be contemplating major changes to his operation is likely being fueled by wording in a LoopNet sales listing that states “the current tenant is moving to a different town but plans to continue running the place for limited hours, focusing on parties.”
The listing, though the CT Restaurant Brokers LLC firm, further states “This flexibility opens up various options for ownership and management” and notes the property, with its dual kitchens, could easily be subleased to two different food establishments.
News of a possible sale came soon after another downtown restaurant, the Thames Landing Oyster House, at 2 State St., announced its permanent closure as of Sept. 24 due to a “lack of business.”
In a Facebook post, representatives of the restaurant, opened in 2018 by New London High School graduate Jose Martinez, thanked customers for their support, but said they were “no longer able to keep the doors open.”
Cornish said he’s seen online posts speculating Hot Rod will also permanently close, but dismissed that notion as premature.
“It’s New London, and people love to chat,” he said.
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