BERLIN – A local restauranteur plans to transform a vacant bank building on Old Ocean City Boulevard into an eatery focused on traditional southern barbeque.
John Trader, founder of Liquid Assets in Ocean City and Our Harvest in Fenwick, plans to open a barbeque restaurant in the former Taylor Bank building on Old Ocean City Boulevard. Members of the Berlin Planning Commission approved the restaurant’s site plan Wednesday, offering nothing but praise for the project.
“This is such a great location for this,” commission member Barb Stack said.
Trader told the commission he planned to convert the bank building to a 5,200-square-foot barbeque restaurant that would include an indoor bar and stage for live entertainment.
“Very, very casual, the type of family environment where kids can go in the afternoon to go get ice cream after school and families can go and enjoy a little entertainment in the evening,” Trader said. “We’re not going to upset the neighborhood obviously. The closest neighbor is Tractor Supply. I think we’ll probably share a lot of the same clientele.”
Trader said the restaurant, which he has not decided on a name for yet, will feature an open pit barbeque, a concept he said the health department had conceptually approved already.
As far as changes to the existing building, Trader said it would serve as the base of the restaurant.
“The existing part of the building will become the infrastructure of the building, which will be the kitchen area, the dish area and an interior bar,” he said. “Everything else will be kind of located around the outside the existing building to the east, the north and the south. The western elevation stays pretty much the same.”
When asked if the 145-seat facility would be open all year, Trader said he hoped it would be.
“We want to be a big part of the community,” he said. “I think there’s enough business there to get us through the winter but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Trader said the restaurant would be large but could be tightened up during the offseason.
“I think on certain nights carryout’s going to be a big thing,” he said.
Trader agreed and said he was eager to improve the site.
“I feel like that whole shopping center could use a nice little hug,” he said.
Commission member John Barrett said the restaurant would be a huge improvement for the shopping center.
“It looks like it’s well thought out,” he said.
“I think it’s exciting…,” he said. “I think this place is going to work.”
Dave Engelhart, the Berlin’s planning director, said none of the town’s department directors had any concerns about the proposal.
“We’re all supportive as a staff,” he said.
The commission voted 5-0 to approve the site plan.