Not everyone who enjoys Harveys Lake can have a boathouse on the water, but real estate mogul Joe Amato and restaurateurs the Partash brothers will welcome anyone to theirs.
This spring, Amato, his partner Andrea Donten and Brews Brothers owners Mike and Andy Partash plan to open The Boathouse Bar and Grille inside the former Dominic's on the Lake restaurant at the threshold of Harveys Lake.
We're going to call it the Boathouse Bar and Grill, Amato said. We figure a lot of people that come visit the lake don't have a boathouse, so they can come visit ours.
Amato, a former race car driver who owns the Gateway Shopping Center in Edwardsville and other properties, said he has held an interest in the property since it closed in September 2008. Both he and the Partash brothers own boathouses on the lake near Dominic's and were frequent customers before its closing.
We always said if that building became available at the right number, maybe we could buy it and open a bar, Amato said.
They had an opportunity to do so at an August back-tax sale, at which the property was auctioned by Luzerne County to recoup unpaid property taxes from 2008 through 2011; but they were outbid by the owners of LRRDJ, LLC, of Glenside, who held a mortgage on the property. The Glenside company won the auction with a bid of $220,000, though it paid the county only the $40,367 it was owed in back taxes since the company held a lien on the remaining price.
Amato, Donten and the Partash brothers bought the property from the purchaser, who Amato said wanted to flip the property to recoup the mortgage, closing the deal Dec. 7.
Dominic's former owner, Dominic Castrignano, reportedly spent more than a million dollars on upgrades to the building before reopening it under his name in 2007, but closed it a year later, blaming a slow economy and an inability to refinance loans. The restaurant previously operated under different ownership as Damien's before an accidental fire shuttered it in 2006.
Because of those upgrades, Amato and the Partashes said the restaurant needs little work, though they will knock out a first-floor wall and add a new game room. They also had to replace pipes, toilets and heating infrastructure because the pipes were not flushed before the property was vacated, causing plumbing damage from repeated freezing and thawing, and will upgrade kitchen equipment left over from the former Damien's.
The new restaurant will have dining rooms on the first and second floors, an outdoor patio, three bars including a tiki bar, space for live music performers and a game room. It will be open year-round and also will offer catering and take-out service.
We're going to try and cover a lot of bases, Amato said. Different people go out and expect different things.
While it will be Amato's first experience owning a restaurant, the venture will be the latest in a string of restaurants opened by the Partash brothers, who also own Brews Brothers in Jenkins Township, Brews Brothers West in Luzerne, Saints and Sinners in Pittston and the Riverside Caf√© in Wilkes-Barre. They also ran the River Street Alehouse in Jenkins Township before the 2011 Susquehanna River flood forced it to close, and will soon open the Tomato Bar and Bistro in Pittston.
The Partash brothers said the Boathouse will feature bar food such as cheesesteaks, pizza and wings as well as more upscale dinner offerings, similar to the menus at their other restaurants. Steaks and seafood will be on the dinner menu, but they won't be served on linen tablecloths, they said.
Kind of like at Brews Brothers, we're going to have a nice bar menu and a dinner menu, but more of a casual atmosphere, Andy Partash said.
The owners said they hope their business will draw more visitors to the lake and enhance business for other bars and restaurants in the area as well.
Years ago, there used to be a lot more going on at the lake, and more people out and about out there, Mike Partash said. I think with a new place out there people will have another reason to travel out to the lake.
Amato agreed, calling the restaurant a labor of love. We're not trying to get rich, he said. We're trying to have good service for people and a place for people to have fun.