Owner Hopes $3.1M Restaurant Will Be Keansburg’s Crown Jewel

April 30, 2018
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An artist’s rendering of Pier 260, a $3.1 million restaurant scheduled to open on Keansburg’s waterfront later this year.

By Jay Cook

KEANSBURG – Ritesh Shah knows a thing or two about being an entrepreneur. On a daily basis, he oversees orders and prescriptions at his five family-owned pharmacies spread across Monmouth County while also managing a small shopping center in downtown Keansburg.

Last week, he took on his most ambitious project to date with a big investment in Keansburg’s Bayshore waterfront district.

On a clear day with a chilly breeze blowing over the sand dunes onto Beachway Avenue, Shah, his family and business partners broke ground on their new endeavor: Pier 260 Rooftop Bar and Restaurant, a $3.1 million building with big windows that look out onto Raritan Bay and the Manhattan skyline.

“Keansburg has lost so much,” said Shah, 45, of Freehold Township. “In the ’30s and ‘40s it was a destination, people were coming and it was a booming town. We’re going to try to bring that back.”

The nearly 1-acre site at 260 Beachway is surrounded by century-old establishments and up-and-coming projects. It is located at the former site of the TJK Stadium bar. It is directly across the street from Keansburg Amusement and Runaway Rapids Water Park. Immediately next door is Cove on the Bay, a towering, eight-story residential apartment complex under construction.

Shah believes Pier 260 will offer a unique experience that doesn’t exist in town. The eatery with American-themed cuisine will be three stories high, covering about 10,000 square feet. It will seat 120 patrons at the bar and restaurant with some additional space for rooftop relaxing as well.

Shah hopes to captivate diners with a unique, donut-shaped bar, private lounges and a conference room for private events when he opens in the winter of 2018.

And its most riveting feature? The “million-dollar view,” overlooking Raritan Bay to the New York City skyline, he said.

“In those 100 days of summer where you get almost 5,000 to 7,000 people visiting, they don’t have a closed-door, nice restaurant where they can sit with the family to go to,” said Shah, adding Pier 260 can be just that.

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“It’s not that high class,” Shah continued, “but a high-class environment where you can come, cool off and relax.”

The groundbreaking ceremony was more than just a community event. Keansburg Borough elected officials like Mayor George Hoff and Councilman James Cocuzza Sr. were on hand, as was state Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-13), as well as other borough professional and local bank officers.

Hoff, who said it was “about time” Keansburg had a project like Pier 260 in the works, called the future eatery “a no-brainer” for the water front business district.

Once completed, Hoff said he’d “feel fantastic, and it’s going to feel even better for people who are going to come into town to see the revitalization that’s going on.”

Cliff Moore, Keansburg’s Economic Community Development coordinator, said the restaurant signals a changing perspective. The Keansburg that people knew, he said, will soon be a thing of the past.

“Keansburg is a town that’s been beaten for years, but it’s nice to see it coming up,” said Moore. “It’s like a phoenix coming out of the fire.”

A FRESH KEANSBURG

Pier 260 highlights a growing trend of new development and redevelopment happening in Keansburg, a town of about 10,000 people left battered after Super Storm Sandy in 2012. Not including Shah’s restaurant, Moore said there is about $65 million in projects under way in the borough now and an additional $11 million expecting to come between 2018 and 2019.

“It just signifies that the word is getting out that people are starting to appreciate what’s going on, people in town are accepting the change,” said Moore.

The largest – and certainly most noticeable of those projects – is Cove on the Bay, located at the corner of Beachway Avenue and Raritan Avenue. RPM Development broke ground on the eight-story complex in 2016 which will feature 184 luxury rental units. Leasing is expected to begin around July and August with occupancy beginning in October.

Commentary: Keansburg Is Celebrating

Other small businesses have started popping up in recent months, too.

One of the most recent ribbon cuttings was in late March when the Benfer family opened Raritan Bay Brewing Co. at 32 Church St.

Capitalizing on a family tradition, the Benfers expanded their home brewing operation of 10 years into a full-fledged business with a storefront.

Jeff, the head brewer, co-owns the company with his brothers Dan and Kevin, the brewery manager and top room manager, respectively. Raritan Bay Brewing Co. will offer unique takes on stouts, ales and IPAs from 5 to 9 p.m. Fridays, and 1 to 9 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

“It’s fun to do something you enjoy doing as a business,” Jeff Benfer said.

“Those are the ones that are usually the most successful,” added Terry Benfer, Jeff’s mother and company accountant.

A small Mexican restaurant with a growing American influence also opened its doors in January. Caquito’s Grill, 310 Main St., is owned by Leo Vicente and managed daily by Stacy Mintz.

A self-described family-oriented restaurant already with a stable of regulars has been able to tap into Keansburg’s downtown. Caquito’s Grill offers empanadas, their top seller, as well as new additions of burgers, hot dogs and shakes on the menu.

Caquito’s Grill offers local delivery and is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. They are closed Mondays.

Moore, also a Keansburg restaurant owner, has no issue welcoming any new business into town.

“Keansburg is cleaning itself up and it’s going to be the class act of the Bayshore,” he said. “We promise you that.”


This article was first published in the April 26 – May 3, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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