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Bellevue Approves Lease for New Seafood Restaurant

Bellevue city council authorized Mayor Charlie Cleves to execute a lease agreement with Cincinnati-based Enson Group to bring a new seafood restaurant to the city's riverfront.

Enson Harbor, as it is to be known, according to Mayor Charlie Cleves, will occupy the city-owned property that was previously home to Joe's Crab Shack.

Joe's closed a year ago, exiting early from a long-term lease agreement with the city. As part of the lease separation, Joe's gave the building to the city along with all its contents.

Previously, Cleves said, the city owned the lot and leased the spot along the Ohio River to Joe's for $110,000 a year.

The new deal, which has some minor details still being worked out by attorneys, is "a much better deal for the city," Cleves said.

The new annual rent is $140,000 and the city will receive an additional 6% for all gross receipts over the initial $2,333,333 brought in by Enson.

"They expect by 2023 to be doing $4.5 million," the mayor said.

Cleves said that he hopes the lease is signed Friday.

The restaurant will also specialize in seafood, like Joe's did. That made it an ideal candidate for the space, since all the contents, including the kitchen equipment, is geared towards that type of menu.

According to its LinkedIn profile, Enson Group "is a Cincinnati-based business that provides foods for restaurants in the Midwest, Georgia, Florida and states on the East coast, including Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia , New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. Enson Group is the parent company of Enson Cincinnati, Enson Reading, Enson Philadelphia, Enson St. Louis, Enson Seafood IN, Inc. dba First Choice Seafood and Enson Seafood GA, Inc. Enson employees approximately 300 people and has been in business since 2009."

"They specialize in seafood restaurants," Cleves said. 

The building will undergo renovations inside. The mayor said that Enson plans to put in a new interior theme. He said that he was impressed by a 3D tour of the renderings created for the project, particularly enjoying the lobster pond.

The city is offering free rent to the business for four months, the amount of time it is expected to prepare it for opening, Cleves said.

"It looks to be really positive, It looks like it's going to be upper scale from what we had there," the mayor said. He expects that having Enson Harbor on the site will be beneficial to diners in Bellevue. Previously, when Joe's Crab Shack was there, it would often complement the success of its neighbor and fellow city lessee, Buckhead Mountain Grill, because when one would be full and with a long wait list, the other could often accommodate those who did not want to wait, Cleves said.

"It's nice having different things there in the same spot. If one's a little full, you can go to the other one," he said.

There were other businesses who sought the opportunity to rent the space, but Cleves said that this one was worth waiting for. 

"I wasn't in any big hurry and neither was (City Administrator) Frank (Warnock)," the mayor said. "We wanted to do it right and take our time. We figured if we rushed and tried to rent it while COVID was going on, we were not going to get a good deal.

"This way we waited and it was well worth the wait. It will be something we're going to be proud of."

The lease is a five-year agreement, Cleves said, which is a shorter term than what Joe's had or what Buckhead has. Joe's exited its lease agreement after 18 years of a 40-year term.

"This is great for Bellevue to get this rented so quick, in just a year," Cleves said.

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Photo: Future home of Enson Harbor in Bellevue (RCN)

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