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    Friday, May 24, 2024

    Dad’s Restaurant in Niantic sacrifices summer season for renovations

    An advertisement for Dad’s Restaurant in Niantic that was published in 2014.

    East Lyme ― The newest owner of Dad’s Restaurant hopes to reopen the 60-year Niantic mainstay a year from now with an updated but “pretty similar” ambiance.

    Scott Leahy, owner of adjacent Boats Incorporated, purchased the 147 Main St. property last November for $400,000.

    The Wall Street analyst-turned-boating executive on Tuesday said floodplain regulations and construction costs will influence the extent of any renovation. An architect has been hired and discussions with contractors are ongoing.

    “Hopefully we can do some renovations that will make it look a little nicer, but I think it will probably remain pretty similar to what it is today,” he said.

    The site has long been used as a restaurant in the summer and boat storage the rest of the year. Leahy said ensuring off-season storage space for his dealership and marina was the driving factor in his decision to buy the property.

    “Plus, what I realized is there’s a lot of loyalty to the Dad’s name over time,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who want to see Dad’s reopen and kind of stay similar to the heritage of what it’s been for 60 years.”

    He said the goal is to offer familiar favorites like lobster rolls, fried clams and burgers. But those details will ultimately be up to the professional he brings in to run the restaurant for him.

    Dad’s ― with its fisherman-chic decor marked by indoor picnic tables, fishing nets, buoys and other nautical ephemera ― has evolved slowly over the decades. Founded as the Harbor Drive-In by David Waddington in 1963, the restaurant sat in a nearby building before the Fryolators were packed up in 1970 for a move to the current location.

    A 1971 ad for the Harbor Drive-In ran in The Day with a tongue-in-cheek promise of “Bromo Seltzer, Alka Seltzer, Rolaids served with all meals (upon request).”

    According to archived reports, the restaurant got its lasting name from Waddington’s daughters and an exclusively female waitstaff who all referred to him as “Dad.”

    Assessor’s records show Leahy is the third owner since the property was sold by Patricia Waddington in 2000.

    The new owner on Tuesday was hopeful construction could begin in a month or two. That way, there’s enough time to complete the renovation before boats are wrapped up for storage in October.

    Leahy emphasized the already tenuous plan is subject to change based on factors like construction costs, which he said have skyrocketed.

    “It’s got to make financial sense, too,” he said.

    Does that mean that scrapping the restaurant entirely is a possibility?

    “I hope not, but that’s always a potential option, I guess,” he said.


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