By DAVID BORAKS
Port City Club. That’s the name of the new waterfront restaurant that Lake Norman restaurateur Nick Lyssikatos is planning in Cornelius, in a building that once housed Midtown Sundries. Lyssikatos, who also owns the Brickhouse Tavern in Davidson and Miciah’s Speakeasy in Mooresville, said at a press conference Monday afternoon he hopes the nearly 500-seat restaurant can open as soon as August, after renovations.
Port City Club would be only the second lakeside eatery on the south end of Lake Norman. (The Rusty Rudder is the other.) But Lyssikatos said he wants it to be more than just a restaurant. He’s using a tagline “Everyone’s Waterfront Meeting Place.”
“It’s going to be everybody’s club,” Lyssikatos said Monday.
The project had been rumored for weeks. “It was a long process getting here. And I thought it was time to come out and lay it on the line and say what we’ve been working on,” Lyssikatos said.
Local officials have been looking for someone to take over the site, at 8665 Harborside Drive in Cornelius. It had been one of the largest vacant commercial spaces in town, according to Don Harrow, economic development consultant for the town of Cornelius.
“Cornelius is the lake town, from a quality of life perspective,” Harrow said. Returning the property to use gives residents and visitors another way to access the water.
The new business also will create 60 to 70 new jobs, Lyssikatos said.
A CLUB ATMOSPHERE
Lyssikatos, 48, has run the Brickhouse Tavern in downtown Davidson, for 11 years, building it into a popular gathering place for residents, Davidson College students, lake dwellers and NASCAR drivers and fans. Meanwhile, he also has built up a following at Miciah’s Speakeasy Club, off I-77 Exit 33 in Mooresville.
Although initially concerned about the restaurant’s size – at 13,200 square feet, it’s much larger than The Brickhouse, which is 9,500 square feet – he came to see the opportunity.
“A lot of restaurants … were scared away from this place because it’s so big,” he said. But he said he’s been turning away large parties at the Brickhouse, and saw a chance to meet that demand.
Midtown Sundries was one of the Lake Norman area’s oldest restaurants when it closed in December 2010.
Latitude 36 took over the space, but closed in summer 2011 after only about eight months. The property had been owned by Bank of North Carolina after foreclosure.
Lyssikatos said he expects to succeed where others have failed because of his experience with setting the right price points and because of the talent and longevity of his management.
VARIETY OF SEATING
Altogether, the restaurant will have 320 seats indoors and 150 outside.
The club will have a 50-seat bar with banquettes, a 100-seat outdoor patio, a coffee and pastry bar with its own line of coffees, and an outdoor seating area with sofas and fire pits.
Port City Club also will have space for up to three large meetings at once, of 65, 80 and 100 people. That’s a feature local officials are trumpeting – no other place in Cornelius is large enough to handle that right now, Lyssikatos says.
The renovations will include fresh paint, a reconfigured dining space, and removal of pool tables to make way for more seating. Meanwhile, windows will be removed from the patio area, opening the restaurant up to the water.
Lyssikatos said the atmosphere will be casual, and diners will be able to wear everything from shorts, coverups and flip flops to business attire. “I don’t want to scare people away
Diners can arrive by car – there’s a 149-space parking lot – or by boat, pulling up to a dock that may be able to accommodate as many as 25 boats at a time. Jan Black, who is handling marketing for the new eatery, said they’ll develop a mobile website so boaters can order from the water.
Lyssikatos has yet to announce a chef, but said the food would be “98 percent” freshly made, on a menu with a “lighter feel to it, almost Mediterranean.” He’ll have oysters, seafood, King Crab, and snapper, as well as smaller plates – tapas – and other dishes, including flatbread pizza.
Neighbors reportedly are eager for a new eatery to take over the space, which has been vacant since Latitude 36 closed.
A press release issued Monday quoted Dave Vieser, president of the nearby Harborside Townhomes, as saying: “This is really good news. We’ve really missed having a good quality restaurant and meeting place open nearby, especially within walking distance and I know many of our residents are excited about all the new plans for this facility.”
SMALL BUSINESS LOAN
Lyssikatos closed on the property Friday. He would say how much he’s paying for the site, or how much he plans to spend on the renovation.
He’s getting financing through People’s Bank, in a package that includes a 20-year Small Business Administration loan and a bank loan, he said.
Lyssikatos has an ambitious schedule for the painting, landscaping and other renovations. He said he’d like to open by the first week of August.
Here’s the text of Monday’s announcement.
A New Regional Waterfront Dining & Meeting Place
Nick Lyssikatos would like to start by thanking all of the loyal customers for the success of the BrickHouse Tavern and for their continued support over the last 11 years. As he expands to this new location in Cornelius, he intends to build a similar loyal customer base. He is meeting today with neighborhood associations nearby to begin to develop relationships.
Nick would like to thank the long list of people who made this deal happen and got the project to this point. Don Harrow – for bringing the project to my attention, REM Architectural Firm and their Associates, Sharon Anklin Goheen – the Artist & color coordinator, Jan Black for pre-marketing plans, the Banks, Realtors, SBA and all those who worked tireless hours.
In honor of the 50th Anniversary of Lake Norman, this new restaurant and meeting facility wants to recognize the history of the area. Lake Norman is the largest man-made lake in the Carolinas & is known as the “Inland Sea “ as it is the largest inner port in the Carolinas. *
In 1961, Tom McKnight dubbed “Mooresville – Port City of Lake Norman” The Town continued to market itself under that tag name until Stock Car Teams started locating in Mooresville and in 1995, Mooresville became Race City USA.” **
However, when Lake Norman was formed, the Town of Cornelius added 54 miles of shoreline. ** Since this new facility is located on the shores of Lake Norman in Cornelius, it will be called “Port City Club – EVERYONE’s Waterfront Meeting Place ” It is anticipated to be opened in August 2013.
Décor & Design
The building will be noticeably refreshed with a new coat of paint & the outside landscaping enhanced. The inside décor will be significantly changed to be bright, cheerful and reflect the atmosphere of being located on the water. The theme will reflect West Palm Beach living. There will be new granite bar tops, light flowing curtains, new seats, tables & benches inside & outside to reflect the carefree yet classy lifestyle.
Seating – 320 inside – 150 outside – with the removal of the pool tables, this new meeting place will have the capability of hosting 3 different large private parties inside of 65, 80 & 100, leaving room for regular customers and seats at the bar area. It will draw larger meetings & private functions to Cornelius that cannot be accommodated now.
The interior space will also have the capability to be sectioned off for multiple smaller groups – weekly or monthly meetings for lunch or dinner for businesses, non-profit groups, clubs during weekdays based on availability as well as special occasions and larger gatherings of friends.
People come to a waterfront restaurant to enjoy the outdoors. To increase the outdoor dining space, the windows on the deck between the main restaurant and outdoor open seating will be removed. This will provide 100 covered outdoor dining seats as well as open outdoor seats. Outside areas could host casual gatherings.
The outside volleyball sand area will be renovated with comfortable outdoor sofas and chairs, another 50 seats, with a couple of fire pits to enjoy the beautiful water views, sunsets and breezes in a relaxed atmosphere while listening to music and enjoying drinks, snacks or dessert.
“This is really good news” said Harborside Townhomes President Dave Vieser. “We’ve really missed having a good quality restaurant and meeting place open nearby, especially within walking distance and I know many of our residents are excited about all the new plans for this facility.”
Port City Club Coffee & European Style Pastry Bar
Port City Club will be working with long time coffee supplier, S&D Coffee & Tea, to introduce for the first time to the public a line of specially developed signature blends for Port City Club’s Coffee & European Style Pastry Bar within the restaurant. These S&D Signature Blends are made up from beans that are responsibly sourced and story driven; insuring social and environmental best practices are demonstrated and maintained from the farmer to your cup.
S&D Coffee & Tea is the nation’s largest custom roaster and the largest blender of iced tea for the foodservice industry. In continuous operation in Concord, NC since 1927, S&D Coffee serves over 80,000 customers through national distribution and direct store delivery. In 2010, S&D added a state-of-the-art Food Innovations and Ingredients production unit which extracts the flavors of coffee, tea and botanicals for use in iced coffee, shakes, iced cream and frozen desserts, energy drinks and other packaged and dispensed products.
Experienced Restaurant Owner
Nick Lyssikatos is an experienced restaurant owner & operator who understands the affordability aspect with quality, award-winning food in generous portions that are necessary to run a successful restaurant in a friendly, casual atmosphere. He consistently serves fresh, delicious food with reasonable price points – Lunch $5 – $15, Dinner $5 – $25.
For each of the 11 years he has owned the BrickHouse Tavern, his business has increased even in a downturn economy. He will utilize all of his expertise when he opens Port City Club while continuing to operate the BrickHouse Tavern. Nick pays a lot of attention to what his diverse customers want –singles, couples, families, seniors – for regular meals and special occasions. His staff is experienced, knowledgeable and well trained in service and customer satisfaction.
“Mr. Lyssikatos was made aware of the property’s availability and encouraged to consider it by Cornelius Economic Development Consultant, Don Harrow. “The building was the largest vacant restaurant space in town and it’s prime location made finding the right buyer important to bringing more economic vitality to the waterfront”, Harrow said. He added, “Nick’s experience as a successful hands-on restaurant operator who knows the market and how to create an inviting dining atmosphere made him a logical person to approach.” Cornelius Mayor, Lynette Rinker, commented, “the town is very pleased to have someone with Nick’s vision and track record of community involvement bring his experience and commitment to town.”
Special thanks to everyone who worked so hard with endless hours to make this deal work – John Woods- Peoples Bank, the SBA Mediator –Jan Moody – BevCor, the Bank of NC., and the Realtor Gary Knox
Port City Club is intended to benefit and support the Town of Cornelius and area residents, businesses & non-profit organizations with a large boost to the local economy: creating over 60 jobs – apply at email@example.com
Nick Lyssikatos currently supports the Town of Davidson, local businesses and community groups through his donation of time, effort, financial support and food. Nick won the North Mecklenburg Crime Stoppers Citizen of the Year in 2011. He plans to do the same for Cornelius.
Jan Black, who has lived in Cornelius, NC for over 20 years and knows the region, will oversee the marketing, media, meetings & special events at Port City Club. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Port City Club, the new regional waterfront dining & meeting place is located on 18665 HarborSide Road just off Catawba Avenue in Cornelius, NC.
* Around Lake Norman , By Cindy Jacobs, Arcadia Publishing
** Lake Norman Our Inland Sea By Bill & Diana Gleasner, Inc., The Peninsula Press, Denver, NC