The restaurant’s parent company, Maritime Concepts, is selling its lease to make way for an apartment development.
After nearly 27 years on the Downtown Southbank, the last day of business for River City Brewing Co. is July 18.
The restaurant is closing so a Miami-based developer can prepare the site for a planned eight-story, 327-unit apartment building.
River City co-owners Anthony Candelino and Eugene Van Note said July 15 the restaurant’s parent company, Maritime Concepts L.C., will close Aug. 2 on its financial deal with The Related Group.
The developer intends to buy out Maritime’s remaining 76 years of a 99-year land lease with the city and assume ownership of the 3.34-acre property at 835 Museum Circle.
Van Note and Related Group Vice President of Development Jeff Robbins declined to disclose what the developer is paying Maritime for the remaining interest in the lease.
“We paid them a sum of money to collapse the lease and then we will acquire the underlying fee simple interest,” Robbins said June 26.
A state Division of Corporations’ filing shows that Van Note, of Cranford, New Jersey, is Maritime’s co-managing partner with Joel Greenfield of Bridgehampton, New York.
Robbins said the deal was expected to close July 26, but Maritime negotiated an additional week to allow River City time to remove restaurant equipment and memorabilia.
Many offers for site
Van Note said Maritime received many unsolicited bids to buy out River City in the nearly 27 years it has operated.
“Along the way we had probably 20 different offers. Nothing ever really came to fruition,” he said. “We never had it on the market.”
Van Note said what makes the offer from Related different is the developer’s background.
Related was founded in 1979 by Chairman and CEO Jorge M. Perez. The development company’s focus is Southeast Florida with an emphasis on luxury high-rise condominiums.
The company lost a bid in February 2020 to redevelop the former Jacksonville City Hall and Duval County Courthouse site on the Downtown Northbank, now called The Ford on Bay.
Related announced in June it plans to build Azure, a 26-unit oceanfront condominium in Jacksonville Beach. Robbins said the units will sell for $1.5 million to $6.5 million.
The Downtown Southbank project is named RD River City Brewery apartments.
“They’re phenomenal people,” Van Note said.
Before Related takes control of the River City site, Candelino said the restaurant is scheduled to host a wedding July 24 and will auction fixtures July 25.
River City to sell equipment
He said River City will sell its brewing and kitchen equipment, tables, chairs and the restaurant’s decorative nautical collectibles, wall decor and stained glass windows.
Maritime closed the restaurant’s marina July 15. It rented slips month-to-month and Maritime gave the tenants a 30-day notice to vacate in late June.
Candelino said if boaters were still docked after the deadline, River City would work with them and not immediately make anyone leave.
Candelino said he’s also worked with River City’s more than 50 employees — cooks, servers, dishwashers, hosts and wait staff — to help them secure jobs before the closure.
River City will keep many of its employees, including the general manager and head chef Marvin Barnes, on the payroll through the end of July, he said.
“We always try to run things like a family. We’re a family here,” Candelino said.
The property has been home to restaurants for decades.
It housed the Lobster House restaurant for nearly 50 years before it was destroyed by fire in 1962. It was the backdrop for some scenes in the 1954 film “Creature from the Black Lagoon.”
In the 1970s, Diamondhead restaurant and then Someplace Else disco club operated there. That structure was demolished and replaced by Harbormasters.
The restaurant was renamed River City Brewing Co. in November 1994 after Van Note and his then-business partners took over the venue.
Van Note brought Candelino to River City in July 1996 as vice president and restaurant manager.
“We want to thank all of our employees that have worked for us throughout all these years. Good, bad and indifferent. But that’s what made River City,” Candelino said. “(The customers) welcomed us with open arms to where now I’m staying in Jacksonville. I don’t want to leave.”
Robbins said Related anticipates a groundbreaking by the end of 2021.
“A lot of that is predicated on the assumption that we can get through the building permit process in a timely manner, which we have no indication that it won’t be (possible),” Robbins said. “The city has been very responsive and we look to build on that relationship.”
Robbins said the restaurant, apartment and marina reconstruction will happen concurrently.
“Our objective is to have the entire project come online simultaneously for a seamless grand opening and introduction to the marketplace,” Robbins said.
Related Group announced in October it was negotiating with Maritime and planning an apartment development.
The $99.16 million proposed project will include a free-standing, nearly 5,000-square-foot restaurant fronting St. Johns River Park and Friendship Fountain and a 500-space parking garage.
Related secured an $18.27 million taxpayer incentives package from the city for the project.
The restaurant was added to the plan at the request of the Downtown Investment Authority as a condition for approving the deal.
City Council approved the incentives 19-0 on June 8.