The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

March 7, 2013

Conneaut Port Authority to reopen, run restaurant

By MARK TODD - mtodd@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — Tired of waiting for a suitable vendor, the Conneaut Port Authority will strap on an apron this spring and enter the restaurant business.

Members plan to reopen a small, lakefront building that once served food to hungry boaters and fishermen — until the operator moved out nearly two years ago. Since then, the port panel, which owns the one-story structure, has been searching for a viable replacement without success, said Joseph Raisian, chairman.

“We just haven’t had any luck,” he said. “As a result, we’re going to pursue it on our own.”

The eatery will have a new name, the Breakwall Cafe, when it debuts in about two months, Raisian said. “We’re shooting for an opening in May,” he said.

Port members will not be cooking food or waiting on tables. The authority plans to hire a manager and a handful of employees to oversee the operation, Raisian said. The port panel will also invest between $10,000 and $15,000 in equipment to upgrade the restaurant, a move members hope will eventually boost interest in the building from developers.

“We’re enhancing its leasibility,” Raisian said.

The bill of fare would be simple, mainly burgers, sandwiches and french fries, Raisian said. The authority is working to secure a beer/wine license for the establishment, he said.

“The focus will be on fresh food,” Raisian said.

The building sits a half-dozen steps from one of the city’s two municipal marinas, and give sailors and visitors another casual dining option in the Port of Conneaut. The restaurant will also serve as a much-needed lakefront attraction, Raisian said.

“When you drive over the hill (on Broad Street, approaching the waterfront), and you don’t have a boat, what makes you want to leave some money in the city of Conneaut?” he said.

The building, originally a clubhouse for boaters, needs only “a little retooling here and there” before it welcomes customers, Raisian said.

Port members are taking a proactive approach to the tourism issue, Raisian said.

“We went through a few people who were interested, but we ultimately felt we have to do this on our own,” he said. “We’ve got to do something.”