SNOW HILL – The founder of a popular Ocean City restaurant is hoping to bring French fine dining and Lebanese cuisine to the area as he takes over two more local establishments.
Peter Elias, founder of Spain Wine Bar, will also be taking over the former Whiskers space in Ocean Pines, which he plans to make a Lebanese restaurant, and the former Cowboy Coast property, which he will transform into a fine dining facility. Elias acknowledged that his plans were ambitious but stressed that he had a team of capable staff and would remain focused on providing quality experiences for diners.
“The most important thing is God’s grace and showing love to my guests,” he said. “That is the mission statement, that’s what I live for. That’s what these restaurants for me are about.”
Elias met with the Worcester County Board of License Commissioners, the body that grants beer, wine and liquor licenses, on Monday. He told the board his initial focus would be Sand and Cedar, the restaurant he will open in the Pines Plaza. Elias said the cuisine would be Lebanon-centric but that he would work in some Greek, Moroccan and Turkish foods as well.
“This’ll be a scratch kitchen the same way Spain is,” he said.
He said he was flying two renowned chefs in to work on the menu, which will change daily. At least half of the wines served at Sand and Cedar will be from the Lebanon region.
Elias asked the board for permission to have live entertainment seven nights a week.
“I’d like to be able to have the flexibility,” he said, adding that he envisioned musicians as well as potentially a belly dancer.
Board members said they’d like to see a less frequent entertainment schedule to start and approved live music two nights a week with the license transfer.
Elias went on to share his plans for the Cowboy Coast property with the board. He said the large space would be completely transformed into Bistro Cotiere, a white tablecloth, fine dining restaurant. Bistro Cotiere will feature a seafood station as well as a wine room and aging room for steaks.
“We’re not just providing a meal, we’re focusing on curating a unique experience,” Elias said. “This is a restaurant I want to focus on a James Beard (award) or something even more down the road.”
Because he’s planning such a change to the facility, he said there was a lot of structural work to be done, knocking down walls and installing French doors and windows.
“We’re bringing light into the concept,” he said.
Elias, who has operated restaurants and lounges in New York and Washington, D.C., in the past, wants the space to serve as a wedding venue as well.
When complete, it will be laid out in such a way that it can be broken up into different spaces so that the restaurant could be open while a portion of the facility was rented out for a special event.
“The idea of the space being so large, and the history it’s had, is to refine it,” Elias said. “The idea is to be proud of this particular building.”
Because the space is large, Elias wants to work a lounge concept into it as well.
After 10 p.m., he told the board he wanted to have entertainment. He said he wanted to host DJs and have permission to have live music, particularly if he was renting spaces to wedding parties.
“What I’m trying to do is integrate concepts,” he said, adding that he wanted to bring in international DJs from Europe.
While late night noise near residential areas and roadways is always a concern for the board, Elias asked the board to trust him.
“I want to elevate this place,” he said. “These concepts are to help do that.”
David Rosenblit, whose family owns the property, spoke in support of Elias’ proposal. Sgt. Doug Smith of the Ocean City Police Department also offered positive comments. He said police had responded to noise complaints there in the past when the establishment hosted hip hop bands.
“We had issues with the last lessee,” he said. “We are encouraged to hear this is not going to be a hip hop nightclub. Hopefully if there are issues we’ll have a good rapport and not have the animosity we had with the last tenant.”
Board member Charles Nichols said Elias had an impressive plan but asked how he’d be able to accomplish opening both new restaurants in the coming months. Elias said his immediate focus would be on Sand and Cedar while Bistro Cotiere would likely open in the fall. He said he had a team of four managers and several chefs that would enable him to run both facilities.
“I don’t do anything if I don’t have the team to do it,” he said.
Board member Marty Pusey said she was worried about the potential noise impact on area residences.
The board agreed to approve the transfer but limited entertainment to five-piece bands seven nights a week. Elias did not get permission to have a DJ.
Board members said Elias could always come back and ask for more entertainment in the future after the restaurant had opened.
“You’ve got a lot of work ahead,” Nichols said.