Bradenton's Pier 22 owner hopes to offer a unique dining experience in replacing the landmark Polo Grill & Bar.
General Manager and Executive Chef Greg Campbell didn't hesitate when asked what would make the new "Grove" restaurant a success in Main Street at Lakewood Ranch.
"Energy," Campbell said. "Positive energy."
Campbell and owner Hugh Miller exuded positive energy as they walked through a gutted building that for more than 10 years was Polo Grill & Bar at 10670 Boardwalk Loop. Miller has signed a "long-term" agreement with landlord Lakewood Ranch Main Street LLC to operate the "Grove."
Miller, who owns Pier 22 on the Manatee River in Bradenton, said he is making a "multi-million" investment to renovate the building.
"We're committed," he said. "We're all in."
He plans to open his new restaurant in late fall but doesn't haven an exact date. "There is a lot to do," he said.
Residents in East County will be excited about a new restaurant, but also because Campbell will continue to run the 10,000-square-foot ballroom, which hosted countless business and fundraising functions under the previous owners, Tommy and Jaymie Klauber. Although the ballroom is listed as having a 350-person occupancy, Campbell said it will take some time to decide how many people can be served in the ballroom, whether that number is closer to 400 or 300.
Pier 22 has its own ballroom and catering services so Miller and Campbell, who has worked for Miller at Pier 22 for 12 years, are familiar with running a similar operation. Pier 22, which has been owned by Miller's family since 1976, is just under 30,000 square feet while the Grove will be about 27,000 square feet.
Both said the two two restaurants will be very different so those who dine at one can eat at the other a few days later and have a completely different experience.
Kirk Boylston, the president of Lakewood Ranch Commercial, said he was pleased to see Campbell and Miller take over the restaurant. "We're happy the ballroom will remain in place," Boylston said.
While it will be the same building occupied by Polo Grill & Bar, Miller said those who come to the Grove won't recognize the restaurant. He said they will construct a huge outdoor dining component. "That's a big part of what we do," he said.
Miller described the planned decor as "modern ranch" but he wouldn't go into detail. He said he wants his patrons to be surprised when they visit the restaurant for the first time.
While neither Miller or Campbell would reveal much about the menu, Campbell did say the gourmet meals would be "scratch-made" from whole foods. Miller said the restaurant will offer later hours at night and a "significant" happy hour.
"This area needs that," Campbell said.
Campbell said the restaurant will have more than 100 employees. "We spend a lot of money on labor," he said.