The Boathouse News

Long Beach restaurant scene to welcome Boathouse on the Bay on Thursday

By Andrew Edwards, Press-Telegram | POSTED: 01/27/14, 6:37 PM PST

LONG BEACH>>Boathouse on the Bay, the successor to the popular waterfront restaurant McKenna’s on the Bay, is set to open Thursday.

“We’re going to open Thursday afternoon,” General Manager John Morris said. “I’m very excited.”

McKenna’s on the Bay was well-known in the city for hosting waterfront fireworks shows on the Fourth of July, as well as a place where diners could meet to handle serious business matters over a meal.

“Let’s just say there were a lot of movers and shakers,” said City Councilman Gary DeLong, whose district includes the area where Boathouse on the Bay is set to do business.

With its new name, Boathouse on the Bay is planned to be at least a little different than its predecessor. Boathouse on the Bay will continue to retain some 90 percent of McKenna’s employees and serve seafood dishes as its predecessor did, but the new menu will focus on steak to a greater degree.

“The emphasis on the dining room is going to be prime steaks. We’re going to a heavy steak program,” said Morris, who also worked as McKenna’s general manager before that restaurant closed on Jan 2.

Morris said another change for the Boathouse is the creation of a new lunch and patio menu, still in development, that will offer a somewhat more casual selection of dishes for diners who prefer to eat on a deck overlooking Alamitos Bay. Patio diners can expect to be able to order the same menu items offered in the main dining room, but Morris expects the patio menu will tend to attract a younger, more casual clientele than the dining room.

Boathouse on the Bay is set to open at 4 p.m. Thursday. The conversion of the former McKenna’s restaurant into the new place happened quickly after McKenna’s closed early this month.

McKenna’s landlord, Bancap Seaport Village, closed and took possession of the restaurant on Jan. 2. The company, which manages the Alamitos Bay Landing center that includes the Boathouse site, reported at the time that McKenna’s ownership group was experiencing financial difficulties following the death of McKenna’s majority owner, Nick Limer. Limer died of pancreatic cancer in November.

Bancap announced a new ownership group for the restaurant less than one week after the closure. The new company, called Naples Restaurant Group, has Long Beach restaurateurs Eric Johnson and David Copley as its principals. Johnson and Copley own Legend’s Sports Bar & Restaurant in Belmont Shore. The others in the ownership group are David Erickson, also CEO of FreeConferenceCall.com; Josh Lowenthal, COO of FreeConferenceCall.com and son of Democratic Congressman Alan Lowenthal, Naples businessman Glenn Russell and lobbyist Matt Knabe, son of Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe.

DeLong is among those waiting to try the new restaurant.

“McKenna’s was a Long Beach institution,” he said. “I was very disappointed to see it go out of business, but I’m anxiously awaiting Boathouse on the Bay.”


McKenna’s on the Bay to be replaced with Boathouse on the Bay

By Tim Grobaty, Long Beach Press Telegram | Posted: 01/07/14, 5:18 PM PST

LONG BEACH >> Boathouse on the Bay will be the newest waterfront dining venue when it opens soon, replacing the recently closed McKenna’s on the Bay.

McKenna’s was taken over by its landlord, Bancap Seaport Village, on Jan. 2, less than two months after its longtime owner and founder, Nick Limer, died of pancreatic cancer.

“We’re going to open ASAP, as soon as we can,” said John Morris, McKenna’s general manager, who will retain that position at Boathouse. “It’s down to the matter of getting the liquor license straightened out. I’d like to think it’ll be within 10 days.

In a press release, Bancap reported the restaurant’s prior ownership group fell into a poor financial condition.

“When Nick died, it was more than a mess, financially,” added Morris.

Some 35 investors were involved in McKenna’s ownership. Just six people are the new leaseholders for Boathouse on the Bay, all Long Beach residents: Eric Johnson and David Copley, co-owners of Legends in Belmont Shore; David Erickson, CEO of Long Beach-based FreeConferenceCall.com; Josh Lowenthal, COO of FreeConferenceCall.com and son of U.S. Rep. Alan Lowenthal and State Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal; Naples businessman and banker Glenn Russell; and lobbyist Matt Knabe, son of L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe.

“I’m superexcited about this,” said Johnson, 40. “It’s right across the bay from my parents’ house on 65th Place on the Peninsula, so I grew up looking at those restaurants in Alamitos Landing (then Seaport Village): Jolly Roger, the Windrose, all those places. That center has always been a big part of my life. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be part of it now.”

Despite its financial mess, McKenna’s remained a popular restaurant right up until its sudden closure last week, and Morris says he doesn’t intend to fiddle with the formula. He says he will rehire most of the McKenna’s employees and will keep the menu the same as McKenna’s — mostly pastas, steak, seafood and salads. “We will make some modifications as we move forward,” he said.

“It’s a new chapter. It’s exciting as hell for me,” crowed Morris, always enthusiastic about his endeavors, which have included his virtual invention of the modern sports bar with the opening of Legends with L.A. Rams offensive lineman Dennis Harrah in 1979 and his early pioneering work on a then-redeveloping Pine Avenue with his Mum’s restaurant, which later became Smooth’s.

He left Pine Avenue in 2011 to work at McKenna’s, bringing with him many of the city’s powerful business and political people who have been regulars at McKenna’s. He instituted several community events at the restaurant, including the already popular, after just two years, July 3 fireworks show headquartered at the restaurant to benefit Long Beach firefighters.


McKenna's Closed, New Boat House Restaurant Planned

By Ashleigh Ruhl Editor
Posted: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 4:39 pm | Updated: 7:26 pm, Tue Jan 7, 2014.

McKenna’s on the Bay, a high-end restaurant that has anchored Alamitos Bay Landing for more than a decade, was repossessed by its landlord and closed last Thursday. In its place, a new restaurant called Boat House on the Bay is expected to open.

The new restaurant concept was announced today by McKenna’s former general manager John Morris. Morris is a prominent businessman in Long Beach who also co-owns Legends Sports Bar & Restaurant in Belmont Shore alongside restaurateur Eric Johnson. The two men will be partners in this new venture, among others (including David Copley, Dave Erickson, Glenn Russell, Josh Lowenthal and Matt Knabe), for Boat House on the Bay, managed by a new company called Naples Restaurant Group.

A lease was signed today, but no opening date has been scheduled for the new restaurant.

“The Boat House is going to have high end seafood and steak … and live entertainment,” Johnson said. “We are going to be making some small changes to the restaurant (McKenna’s), but nothing major. It’s just a beautiful venue by the waterfront and it’s perfect for this type of restaurant.”

News of McKenna’s closure came nearly two months after the death of McKenna’s majority business owner Nicolas Limer. Limer passed away after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

“It’s rough the way it all went down,” Morris said about the closure of McKenna’s, which was overtaken by the owners of Alamitos Bay Landing, a company called Bancap Seaport Village, Inc. Bancap released a statement that McKenna’s on the Bay LLC “experienced financial challenges with the passing of its majority owner, and former managing member of the LLC, Nick Limer. These challenges have resulted in the LLC defaulting on its lease and other financial obligations which have resulted in the closing of the restaurant.”

Morris said his friend and colleague, Limer, had been putting up a great fight to keep the restaurant running when he was alive.

“The restaurant wasn’t broke, but there at the end (of his life) his world was falling apart,” Morris said, adding that a combination of many factors played into the closure of McKenna’s. Among them, a contributor was an upcoming lawsuit against Limer’s estate and McKenna’s on the Bay LLC.

McKenna’s on the Bay LLC and Limer’s estate are facing a lawsuit that is scheduled to go to trial on Feb. 15, 2015, in Los Angeles County. The case is related to a traffic accident that Limer was involved in that resulted in the death of one motorcyclist and injury of another. In July 2013, there was a collision between the two motorcycles and Limer’s SUV, which was turning left onto Glendora Avenue from Second Street.

Regardless of the restaurant’s closure, Attorney Robert Glassman said the lawsuit is moving forward. Representing Joey Daroza, the injured motorcyclist, and the family of deceased motorcyclist Taryn Hawk, Glassman said: “It is our position that Mr. Limer was at fault for this accident, and it is our position that employees at McKenna’s shouldn’t have allowed him to drive home.”

Limer was not drinking before the accident, but the filed complaint states that his poor health — as he was undergoing cancer treatment — impaired his ability to drive safely. The complaint states that McKenna’s employees knew about Limer’s condition but did not stop him from driving home alone.

The closure of McKenna’s on the Bay, and the addition of The Boat House, will not impact McKenna’s on the Fly, a sister restaurant that opened a year ago at the Long Beach Airport, according to LGB officials.

“There is no reason that the closure of McKenna’s on the Bay will have an impact on the airport’s restaurant, McKenna’s on the Fly,” said LGB spokeswoman Stephanie Montuya-Morisky. “The name, McKenna’s, is licensed through LGB’s managing concessionaire, Paradies, which assures us that business will continue as usual.”



Boathouse On The Bay Expected To Open In February At Alamitos Bay Landing

By Samantha Mehlinger - Staff Writer | January 21, 2014

Eric Johnson (along with business partner David Copely) and Long Beach restaurateur John Morris are teaming up again to put their spin on a long-time local eatery, soon to open under the new brand Boathouse On The Bay.

Just after the New Year, Bancap Commercial Real Estate Services announced that it was taking possession of McKenna’s On The Bay at Alamitos Bay Landing due to financial challenges after the restaurant’s majority owner, Nick Limer, passed away. A few days later, Naples Restaurant Group LLC, headed up by Auld Dubliner owners Johnson and Copely along with partners Dave Erickson, Glenn Russell, Josh Lowenthal and Matt Knabe, took ownership of the restaurant. Morris, who served as the general manager of McKenna’s, will serve in the same role for the rebranded restaurant.

Now a part owner of three large local eateries, including Legend’s Sports Bar, The Auld Dubliner and Boathouse On The Bay, Johnson’s career path seems to be mimicking that of Morris, who is known around town for his contribution to various restaurants over the years, including Legend’s Sports Bar, Mum’s, Smooth’s Sports Grille and McKenna’s. The similarity could be more than coincidence – Johnson has known Morris since he was a kid, having gone to school with his stepdaughter.

When McKenna’s On The Bay closed and was taken over by Bancap Commercial Real Estate Services, business partners Eric Johnson (left) and David Copely (right) jumped at the chance to purchase the restaurant, along with several other investors. Renamed The Boathouse On The Bay, the restaurant will reopen under the general management of John Morris (center) some time in February. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Thomas McConville)

Years later, when Johnson and Copely teamed up to open The Auld Dubliner at The Pike at Rainbow Harbor, Morris took them under his wing, Johnson said. “I [had] spent most of my time in Belmont Shore and I wasn’t used to that environment,” he said of Downtown Long Beach. Morris gave the duo advice on how to build relationships with the groups frequenting the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center located just across the street, Johnson explained.

Morris and Johnson maintained their relationship and began looking for projects to take on together, Johnson said. When Legend’s, which Morris had founded in the 1970s and later sold, came up for sale, “we teamed up on that and we never looked back,” he said. The Boathouse is another chance for the two to collaborate on preserving a local staple. “It’s just one of those places where, as a restaurateur, for nice and fine dining I can’t think of a nicer location,” Johnson said.

Bancap is pleased with the new ownership, according to Whitney Latimer, principal and chief financial officer for the company. “They’re a good group for several reasons. The first reason is they have restaurant experience. They’ve got financial backing with some really good investors,” Latimer told the Business Journal. “And they’re all Long Beach guys,” he added.

Latimer is also glad that Morris is staying on as general manager. “He’s great at bringing people in the door and exposing and marketing the restaurant, and so the fact that they came to us and said that they wanted to hire him back was important,” Latimer said.

“McKenna’s was a successful restaurant. They want to tweak the model but they don’t want to change the model. We’re happy about that too,” Latimer said. Apart from minor touchups to the interior, such as new carpeting, much of the décor may stay the same. In terms of big changes, Johnson said, “We’re looking at doing a patio expansion.”

“We’ll keep a lot of what made that restaurant successful,” Johnson said of the menu, although he said the menu might feature a different spin on certain dishes.

Johnson estimates that Boathouse On The Bay should open some time in February.



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