Dewey Beach Planning and Zoning Commission members voted unanimously Aug. 6 to recommend town council rezone a property from residential to business and to amend the comprehensive plan zoning map accordingly.
Attorney Glenn Mandalas, representing restaurateur Steve “Monty” Montgomery, said at the P&Z’s meeting and public hearing that the ultimate goal of the rezoning request is to combine the property at 26 Bellevue St. with the Hammerheads property on Coastal Highway to allow creation of a new seafood restaurant, Starboard Claw.
The Starboard has been an anchor property in town for more than 60 years, Mandalas said, and Montgomery opened Starboard Raw in 2016.
“You can’t question Monty and his crew’s commitment to this town, and his sincere quest to promote the town as a top vacation destination on the entire East Coast,” Mandalas said. “This application kind of continues that trend and that theme. This is one more demonstration of how committed to the town this group is, and how they want the town to continue to thrive and move forward.”
Mandalas displayed the town zoning map and said 26 Bellevue St. is already largely surrounded by properties designated as business. Rezoning the property would extend the Resort Business 2 line back a little bit more from Coastal Highway to be in line with many other RB2 businesses, Mandalas said.
Several Bellevue residents spoke in favor of the rezoning, and one resident, who said he was most concerned about traffic, crowds and lack of parking, spoke against the application.
One resident said the Hammerheads property is an eyesore. When the nightclub was open, she said, there were crowds, fighting and trash on the street.
Another resident said he was a huge supporter of the project and that Hammerheads was always a problem with fights. He said he would like to have a good partner with a great facility at the end of the block.
Hammerheads owner George Bendler said he is leaving the location because the landlord won’t make improvements on the property or allow him to do so.
“If Monty doesn’t get this operation to change the zoning, we’re going to stay there and it’s going to stay the same,” Bendler said. “This is a great opportunity to have a showcase piece in town.”
Bendler, a certified planner by trade, said in zoning map 6 of the 2007 comprehensive plan, 26 Bellevue was zoned resort business.
In an Aug. 9 email, Town Counsel Fred Townsend said Dewey town council will hold a public hearing and vote up or down on the recommendation from the planning and zoning commission. A meeting had not yet been scheduled by the Cape Gazette press deadline.
If rezoning is approved, owners need to submit an application to town officials to consolidate the properties if they want to expand the existing use onto 26 Bellevue, Townsend said. Whether or not to consolidate the properties would be an administrative decision that would not require a public hearing or vote, he said.
Afterward, plans for the restaurant will go through the town’s public conditional-use approval process, he said. The planning and zoning commission will hold a public hearing and vote on a recommendation regarding the conditional-use application, and send it to town council for a public hearing and vote.
Hard-shell crabs, Ed’s famous chicken, Bethany Blues ribs to highlight menu
In an Aug. 11 email, Montgomery said he hopes to start renovations on the building by mid-October to open before next summer.
“This restaurant will feature a combination of our ribs from Bethany Blues, Ed's chicken from the former Ed's in Dewey – Ed may even pull a shift or two with us as he trains us on his famous chicken recipe – and hard-shell crabs,” Montgomery said. “There isn't currently a place in Dewey Beach to eat hard-shell crabs. We felt it necessary to bring to this town we love so much a place where crabs are served along with the ribs and chicken we already do within our restaurant family.”
Montgomery said he is excited to bring two long-term top employees into ownership roles with the new venue. Keith “Toastie” Kirk of The Starboard and Zach Warner of Bethany Blues will oversee day-to-day operations.
“This gives them a great opportunity to grow their careers in this industry, and helps us ensure this restaurant is as spectacular as we are planning it to be,” Montgomery said. “I tell people to think Starboard Raw when they ask the style of place this will be. A restaurant with a bar; we'll have outside and inside seating, it will be beautifully decorated, and is centered right in the middle of Dewey Beach's commercial district. We think it’s a place more walkable to get to.”
Dewey's restaurant scene has really grown in the past several years, Montgomery said.
“This will be yet another venue to enhance a growing dining scene in Dewey Beach,” Montgomery said. “Hopefully that helps every other business in this town as we continue to get more people coming our way each season and each off-season. Dewey these days has so many wonderful places to dine and enjoy. It’s exciting to work together in our community supporting one another.”