Looney’s is headed to the waterfront.
The local sports bar chain has purchased the former River Watch Restaurant & Marina in Essex, Looney’s co-owner Bill Larney said. He and his business partners plan to update the building on the banks of Hopkins Creek and open a new restaurant there called LoonAsea.
The concept will share some similarities with Looney’s but expand upon the pub grub menu. LoonAsea will serve staple favorites such as wings and cheesesteaks while also offering a selection of “totally different, seafood-based and local” dishes, Larney said.
A complete rehabilitation of the building was slated to start this week. Among the upgrades in the works are two new stages for live music and three bars: one in the middle of the restaurant, a raw bar and a seasonal outdoor bar on the water.
Larney said there are also plans to enclose an outdoor area to create more room for events in the winter months. The space will have sliding doors so it can be open to the outside when the weather is pleasant.
A second phase of construction, slated for next winter, will add a rooftop deck and tiki bar.
While River Watch was a seasonal restaurant, LoonAsea will be open year-round, and Larney said catering will help carry the business through the colder months. The spacious restaurant and marina has 122 boat slips, 11,000 square feet of indoor space and capacity for some 500 people. Larney said 50 of the boat slips will be used by year-round boaters who dock at the marina, and the rest will be available for day boaters who want to pop in for food and drinks.
It will be the first waterfront spot for the Looney’s chain, which has pubs in Bel Air, Perry Hall, Maple Lawn and College Park. A Baltimore location closed last fall after nearly 30 years in Canton.
Larney said he hopes to open LoonAsea in time for Labor Day weekend.
“Sadly, we’re going to miss most of the [summer] season” this year, he said, “but we want to do it right.”