BERLIN – Two restaurants expected to spark a business revival in north Berlin have been shelved because of the falling economy.
A 125-seat seafood restaurant on Old Ocean City Blvd. has been axed, confirmed restaurateur Jim Farlow of his plan to build an eatery opposite the old Tyson chicken processing plant.
“We’ve kind of pulled the plug from building the restaurant there. We’re afraid of the economy,” said Farlow.
Under the current economic conditions, the amount of money needed for the 7,000-square-foot project would be difficult to recoup, Farlow explained, after building the kind of high-quality, Berlin-compatible building he had planned for the old Tyson parking lot.
“With this economy, there’s no room for error,” said Farlow.
An additional location for a popular Ocean City Mexican restaurant at the corner of Old Ocean City Blvd. and Main St., roughly a block from the planned location for Farlow’s seafood eatery, has been put on the shelf for now.
Despite rumors asserting the demise of the La Hacienda restaurant and shops project, the project is not quite dead, according to property owner Bill Herbst.
“We haven’t made that decision, no,” said Herbst, although the project has been indefinitely delayed.
However, Herbst would not commit to a definitive future on the project, refusing to say whether the restaurant complex on the former Neon Moon Café site would go forward despite the delay.
“We don’t know right this minute,” said Herbst. “We’re just going to have to wait it out. Hopefully, the economy will swing back.”
Issues with other projects on his partner’s slate and the downturn in the economy have pushed the project back, Herbst said.
A difficult approvals process with the town of Berlin has also contributed to the delay in the La Hacienda project. The restaurant and retail/office complex should have been finished months ago, Herbst said.
“We’d have been done a year and a half ago if there hadn’t been a few issues the town Planning Commission couldn’t have ironed out in a reasonable amount of time,” Herbst said.
Town approvals for the La Hacienda complex took three years, not 14 months, to get, Herbst said. That derailed the original construction schedule.
Farlow had a different experience with the town of Berlin and the approvals process.
“People were just wonderful to deal with. I feel a little bad we’re not doing the project,” said Farlow.
Another venture will take the place of his original plan for a seafood restaurant. Farlow said he is looking into a creating a smaller scale eatery, more of a bar and grill, in Berlin. He plans to create a low-key, comfortable restaurant, which will fit Berlin’s pocketbooks and will cost less to put together and get off the ground.
“I have no misconceptions about Berlin. It’s going to be a lot harder to make money in Berlin than West Ocean City,” Farlow.
A small customer base could get larger as the Tyson chicken property is redeveloped into residential units, but that project is years from adding new residents to the neighborhood.
With the turmoil in the financial sector, and a looming Presidential election, Farlow will be patient.
“We’re going to take a breath, stand back, and see what happens, then catch the economy on an upswing,” Farlow said.