Cottage Café owners have plans for Route 1’s east side

The Bethany Beach area could see at least one new restaurant next year, as owners of the Cottage Café are proposing to flank Route 1 with beach eateries by building a new restaurant across the highway from the existing establishment.

Neighboring residents saw drawings of the Bethany Beach Boat House restaurant at a Feb. 15 open house hosted by Cottage Café business partners Brent Poffenberger and Tom Neville.

“This is just to introduce the project to the neighbors,” Poffenberger explained.

The proposed building would be located between Walgreens and CVS, sharing a parking lot with the latter.

Designed to fit Bethany’s atmosphere, the Boat House looks similar to the Indian River Life-Saving Station. The restaurant would include a gazebo and outdoor bar over the stormwater retention pond.

In a Feb. 9 email to nearby residents, the owners introduced the Boat House under the new corporation Cottage East Inc. Their recent application for a liquor license is for the new building, not an extension of Cottage Café Inc.

Poffenberger and Neville said Sussex County already allows a restaurant to be built in that location, so no special permissions will be required. But a lease contingency required them to apply for a liquor license before obtaining final building design approval from their landlord (Hickman Beach Properties, for both restaurants).

The liquor license application required notification of all property owners within 1,000 feet of the proposed building, so the partners have begun unveiling their plan now. A hearing will occur in the future. The letters were sent out before they received final landlord approval, but that has since been granted.

Poffenberger said the biggest potential concern for neighbors is noise, which they had discussed at a Sea Colony Recreation Association board meeting in December.

According to the email, the Boat House’s owners will “limit any live entertainment to no more than three pieces. We have also agreed to no live entertainment outdoors after 10 p.m. We have also agreed to shut any doors facing east after 10 p.m. if entertainment was being played inside.”

There will be no audio paging system, and a professional acoustics company will design a sound system that aims most of the restaurant’s sound toward Route 1.

Fitting for a restaurant near the family-friendly beach town, Poffenberger said the “casual” restaurant’s menu will be heavy on seafood, with the “same ownership, same values, different concept” from the Cottage Café. The outdoor seating, a carryout window and sandy children’s playground will take advantage of the location’s outdoor spaces, Neville said.

Hoping to begin construction in autumn, they are aiming to open the Boat House in April of 2015. The seasonal business will close each winter.