There was numerous confusion and hypothesis over the previous two years concerning the riverside restaurant at 600 Fishermans Highway in St. Joseph, and the brand new administration needs to wipe the slate clear – in additional methods than one.
When Brian Steed was employed as the final supervisor on the new On the River Tavern, he understood the restaurant had a considerably tumultuous final couple of years, with public accusations of earlier administration on social media in March 2021 in addition to an abrupt and unexplained closure in November.
Steed, who opened the restaurant for beverage service in mid-July as he appears for kitchen employees, mentioned he’s none-too-concerned with all of that drama.
“I haven’t heard an excessive amount of and I’m not likely asking,” Steed mentioned. “It’s none of my enterprise. … I’m like Switzerland over right here, I’m not making an attempt to get entangled.”
As a 37-year veteran of the restaurant trade – together with 17 as an proprietor – Steed is extra centered on shifting ahead with the possession group and utilizing his expertise within the trade to function the restaurant the best means.
“I run a good shipwreck,” Steed joked. “I’ve been a supervisor, a janitor, a brief order prepare dinner, bartender, waiter – I’ve performed all of it. … [Ownership] is giving me numerous room to do what I feel is greatest for this place. With all my years of doing this, I feel it’s acquired every part it wants. All of the items of the puzzle are there, we simply should put it collectively.”
For Steed, wiping the slate clear additionally takes on a literal which means. From a deep cleansing of the restaurant to a kitchen rework, he’s ensuring On The River Tavern is working as much as his requirements.
“It seemed like a deep cleansing hadn’t been performed shortly,” Steed mentioned. “We cleaned this place finish to finish.”
Different modifications embrace shifting the draft beer system, clearing out some area on the finish of the bar, including new chairs to the river deck and updating some mechanical and plumbing upgrades.
Steed mentioned the time it has taken to finish all these tasks – coupled with the staffing scarcity affecting many native enterprise – are the primary causes On The River Tavern opened in mid-July and never earlier.
“We form of ran out of summer time right here, sadly,” Steed mentioned. “We actually wish to be year-round. We wish to do lunch and dinner. We wish to have a late-night menu. … However it actually relies on buyer base and enterprise demand.”
One of many most important hurdles for Steed within the early going has been the shortage of obtainable employees, resulting in the choice to open only for drinks.
“All people’s hiring and no one’s actually desirous to work seemingly,” he mentioned. “Aside from that, we’re able to go. I might even begin cranking out some meals myself, however I’ve acquired to be again right here to bartend. So, we’re form of beginning gradual and constructing our means up.”
The clear slate additionally applies to Steed personally. He and his spouse simply bought their residence in Illinois and are in search of a house close by. Whereas Steed shouldn’t be but a everlasting resident, he mentioned he’s very aware of the world, has household close by and was a frequent patron of Barney’s Boathouse, which previously occupied the constructing.
“My spouse and I really like Michigan,” Steed mentioned. “We’ve been wanting this for 20 years or extra. There’s nothing about this space we don’t like … It’s simply attending to know the individuals.”
Alongside these traces, Steed mentioned he needs the whole group to go to OTR Tavern, no matter their earlier experiences.
“I invite the whole space – St. Joe, Benton Harbor and all the encircling space,” he mentioned. “Even our detractors, come on in and provides us a strive. We’ve started working out the kinks, however we’ll get there. We’ll be good.”
Along with opening the kitchen and providing a late-night menu, Steed has different plans for On The River Tavern, together with extra boat service, enhancements to the patio, a rooftop deck and bringing in stay music.
Steed, a self-proclaimed Jimmy Buffet “Parrot Head,” can also be within the means of bringing in décor from his outdated institutions over time, together with some choose Buffett memorabilia. Possession, he mentioned, can also be speaking a few separate cigar bar connected to the constructing.
“The potential right here is just too spectacular,” he mentioned. “It’s astounding what might be performed right here. … Simply the visitors with the boats might be its personal enterprise.”
Whereas OTR Tavern already has the license to serve people on their boats, Steed mentioned he needs to get to the purpose of promoting beer, pop, ice and different boating provides to-go. For now, Steed mentioned OTR Tavern opens at about 4 p.m., however hours are topic to vary as employees is employed.
“I’m excited,” he mentioned. “Somewhat nervous like anyone can be – COVID has actually flipped every part up on its head. However I’m simply loopy sufficient, or dumb sufficient, to assume I can pull this off. However it’s not a magic trick that must be pulled off. It’s going to take numerous work, and I’m in it for the lengthy haul.”
By Ryan Yuenger