By Michael Regan firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — It’s taken years of effort, months of hard work and millions of dollars, but the Lumberjacks Patio Grill, and a portion of the adjacent city marina next to it, just south of Gratwick-Riverside Park along the Niagara River will reopen to the public this week.
And while the entire scope of the project has yet to be completed with marina renovations expected to continue into next summer, North Tonawanda’s newest waterfront restaurant has the hopes of city officials and its owner, Carol Tallichet, inextricably pinned to its success.
Mary Lou Pieper, the restaurant’s manager, said a soft opening will ensue on Thursday night, serving as a testing ground for its 29 employees, with local dignitaries invited to attend.
By Friday morning, Lumberjacks will open to the general public, just in time for another Niagara River Rocks concert on Sunday as well as the kickoff of the 31st Canal Fest of the Tonawandas.
Pieper said despite the fact the restaurant is opening more than a month after its original Memorial Day deadline, the idea that North Tonawanda will see thousands of people flooding into the city for the two events will allow everybody associated with it to breathe a sigh of relief.
“Honestly, we were getting a little nervous,” she said. “Now I just want to get it going.”
The city, for its part, has reconstructed much of one boating slip, with the second anticipated to be complete by next year. More than $2 million is slated to be spent on the marina project, half of which came through state and federal funding.
Nonetheless, Pieper said, at least 20 boats will be able to tie up and head to the restaurant free of charge. Transient docking options for longer-term stays will not be ready until next summer. The restaurant can hold 168 people on its sweeping new deck overlooking the river and seats another 63 inside. A new parking lot also has been added.
Mayor Rob Ortt was initially criticized for pushing to spend $100,000 in taxpayer money to conduct a feasibility and reuse study for the marina and the clubhouse that once housed the Niagara River Yacht Club. But, the mayor has contended, the study is what led to nearly $1 million in funding came from outside the city’s coffers.
Ortt said he does feel vindicated after seeing the project come to fruition. He also added that the reality that the council has been largely dominated by like-minded Republicans over the last four years helped ease the process.
“We did the study because it needed to be done to do a project of this scope and size,” he said. “It’s hard not to feel a certain sense of satisfaction.”
Pieper said the restaurant will offer better-than-typical bar food like Angus hamburgers, Wardynski hot dogs, Italian sausage and beer-battered fish sandwichs, along with Anderson’s ice cream and milk shakes, wine and beer. Lumberjacks will remain open through October.
“We’re very, very excited,” she said. “Bring it on.”Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.