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The announcement that JR Restaurant Group, established restaurateurs who run the popular Liv’s Oyster Bar and Liv’s Shack in Old Saybrook, will be taking over the Clinton dock concession stand at the end of Riverside Drive was met with cheers by some—and by less enthusiasm by others. The Harbor News spoke with operator Robert Marcarelli about his plans for the season, which may assuage some local concerns.
On April 7, the Town Council approved JR Restaurant Group’s lease for the summer. For the past two years the stand had been known as Clinton Harbor Grill, but the previous operator asked to be released from the final year of his lease due to personal changes and uncertainty with the food service industry. JR Restaurant Group now has a three-year lease with an extra two years as an option.
In the April 13 Harbor News article “Saybrook Restaurateurs to Helm Clinton Dockside Stand,” the paper quoted Town Manager Karl Kilduff as saying, “They will be offering a menu to provide traditional fare, such as egg sandwiches for breakfast on the weekends as well as seafood offerings” and that the stand would be open only for breakfast on the weekends.
News of the menu and hours irked some social media users who were upset that the stand would turn into another seafood restaurant in the area like Rocky’s Aqua or Shanks. Some commenters were upset there would be a new tenant in the stand, saying the would miss the Voss family who operated Sal Ds at the stand until 2019. However, that era came to an end in 2019 when the town substantially increased the rent and the family chose not to participate in the bid process.
Marcarelli, the director of operations for Liv’s Oyster Bar, reached out to correct information about the hours of operation. According to the operator, the stand will start off with limited hours, and then adjust from there.
Marcarelli said that, as a whole, the restaurant industry has to deal with scrambling to find staff now as places begin to open for the season and with COVID restrictions beginning to ease. Marcarelli said that the goal is to have the stand open sometime in mid or late-May, once staffing issues can be sorted out.
Marcarelli also said the final menu is still being developed, but that it won’t be just seafood, as some had mistakenly assumed. The menu will also feature items like burgers, tacos, French toast, breakfast burritos, lobster rolls, and more, he said.
Those interested in wanting to work at the stand can email email@example.com.