‘Frisky’ restaurant owner hosts downtown launch party

VERA CHINESE PHOTO | The 'launch party' for The Riverhead Project restaurant drew dozens of local business and elected leaders, including Councilaman John Dunleavy, above in beige suit.

The businessman behind Greenport’s Frisky Oyster restaurant said for years he had imagined transforming the shuttered former Chase bank building on East Main Street in Riverhead into a swinging downtown restaurant.

“I always thought it was just such a great, free-standing building,” Dennis McDermott said.

He came a step closer to making that dream a reality Monday night inside the building, where at a cocktail party by candlelight he announced to media and elected and business leaders his plans for the old bank. The event served as part-press conference, part-launch party for the restaurant.

Mr. McDermott, who was a co-owner of Greenport Village’s popular Frisky Oyster and Frisky Oyster Bar restaurants before selling them both, expects to open his new restaurant, which he’s calling The Riverhead Project, sometime next spring.

Read his detailed plans for the building here.

At Monday’s event, Mr. McDermott credited Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter and other town leaders for assisting him with the project, including securing grant money and potential tax incentives through downtown’s economic zone program.

“If it wasn’t for [them] none of us this would have been possible, and none of us would be enjoying cocktails tonight,” he said to laughter.

He added of the long-struggling downtown area: “I think Riverhead is very much poised to be a very dynamic and economically sound district.”

Mr. Walter credited Mr. McDermott as a visionary who saw potential in the former bank building, which is still set up for banking. The 4,000-square-foot main floor holds a vault, teller windows and office space for financial consultants, but offers plenty of space and great views of downtown.

“Can you imagine sitting here when it’s in the winter time, looking out? Or during the summer, sitting outside?” Mr. Walter said.

He noted that Mr. McDermott recognized the “quintessential” charm of the building.

County Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches), whose district includes both Riverhead and Greenport, also offered praise for the restaurateur.

“This is a boon for downtown,” he said, noting that his positive experiences at the Greenport restaurants made him confident The Riverhead Project will be a success.

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