Arena’s, a chain of popular casual dining restaurants in Sussex County, will soon be opening new locations in Georgetown and Milford.
The deli/bar will become the newest eatery at the Sussex County Airport when it opens later this spring, followed by a summer grand opening for its Milford location at the former site of The Pelican Bar on Northeast Front Street.
“We’ve been looking at Milford for a while now, and then the airport location became available and it seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up,” Matt Evans, one of the restaurant’s five co-owners, said this week. “This is the first time we’ll be opening two restaurants at the same time, but you have to take chances in life. We’ve done our research and we’re confident in what we have and we think we can be successful in both markets.”
Sussex County Council last month approved a lease agreement with Deli Days LLC, which purchased Arena’s in downtown Rehoboth in 2005 and has since expanded to a second Rehoboth location, as well as locations in Lewes and Long Neck.
“I think that growth, especially during tough economic times, shows that Arena’s has a business plan that will be successful at the airport, which is one of the things we were looking for,” Deputy County Administrator Hal Godwin said.
Arena’s, the lone bidder on the airport space, will take over the restaurant space currently occupied by Lighthouse Landing, which will close its doors on Thursday.
The owners of that restaurant previously told the county they were not making enough income to maintain the business, despite the county covering its utility and equipment costs.
Under the terms of the new lease agreement, Arena’s will pay up to $15,000 a year in rent, based on a percentage of sale volume.
Godwin said that’s a slight increase over the annual rent paid by the current tenants.
“Over the last few years, the restaurant has not been a positive cash flow for the county,” Godwin said. “But we’re hoping there will be an increase in sales with the new tenants and, at some point in the future, we’d like to get to a point where it is a zero-cost for us, and then have them take over those utility costs.”
Evans said he believes Arena’s at the Airport, as the new restaurant will be known, will prove to be a thriving business.
“We already do a lot of catering in the Georgetown area, and we think there is a niche there between fine dining and fast food that we can fill,” he said. “We believe that by growing a loyal customer base among the 500 to 600 people who work within a mile of the airport, we can be successful there for a long time.”
Page 2 of 2 - Evans said he expects to hire 25 to 30 full- and part-time staff at the new Georgetown location, which will be open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.