Sandy Davieau has always dreamed of having her own restaurant and her dream is about to become a reality when the River Styx Grill, located on the water just under the River Styx Bridge in the old Tidal Wave building in Hopatcong, opens Friday.
The dream began when her kids were playing little league in Jefferson. She and the other mothers would sell hot dogs and hamburgers from the snack shack called The Fifth Base.
“That was my dream then,” she said.
Davieau and her husband John had been looking for a location in the Lake Hopatcong section of Jefferson for a while, but something small, said John.
“We really paid attention to location when we were looking,” he said of their search before buying the River Styx location. Then, a weekend boat ride around the lake lead to a spur of the moment decision to buy the waterfront property.
“We weren’t planning on getting anything this big,” said John of the 3000 square foot, two-story building.
Their kids, who are now all adults, were also consulted. They “encouraged” their parents to take the risk and buy the building.
“There is only so much waterfront property available,” he said. The property has 15 new boat slips available for patrons.
John and Sandy bought the bank-owned property in December of 2011 and have spent the last year totally renovating the entire building, doing most of the work themselves. John, owner of Royal Communications, would come to River Styx after a full day at his business and on weekends to work. He has no plans to change that once the restuarant opens, he said. He will help out on weekends and some nights. Sandy will run the restuarant. Their daughter, Danielle, will be her mother's "right hand." Their son-in-law will help in the kitchen. Both their sons will also help, they said.
The interior on the main floor, which is connected to an 1800 square foot deck, now has a large U-shape bar complete with multiple flat screen TVs and 12 beer taps, ready to serve a variety of craft and seasonal beers.
“We don’t want to be the same old place,” said John who promises they will serve “very good burgers” and great steaks. There is a view of the lake from every table on the main floor, making the restaurant bright and cheery during the day. The deck has room for about 20 round tables, said John. The bottom floor walks out to the docks and will mostly be used for private parties.
By mid-April the restaurant had already booked two baby showers, a wedding, a family reunion and a couple of birthday parties, said Sandy.
“A lot of people are just stopping in and asking about when we will be open,” she said. The plan was to open Memorial Day weekend but that was delayed while waiting for a Certificate of Occupancy from the Sussex County Board of Health.
The CO came last week.
A full staff was hired and ready to go to work by the end of March said John, with ninety percent of the people hired living right in Hopatcong.
“We’ve had an overwhelming response from the townspeople wanting to work here,” he said. “I feel like a painter standing in front of a blank canvas,” said veteran Chef Tom Halka. “I’m really excited. I know we’re going to do very well. It’s like we’re breathing life back into this landmark,” he said of the River Styx location.
Halka said he will use a combination of his own recipes and creations to go along with input from John and Sandy.
It’s taken almost a year and a half for John and Sandy to get to this point but as John said, they “want to get it right” from the start.
“I’m a little nervous,” said Sandy. “A little excited as well.”
The restaurant will be open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 AM until 11 PM. Brunch will be served from 10 AM until 2 PM on the weekend and soon they will start booking musicians for Friday and Saturday nights, “but nothing crazy” said John who added they are interested in a family-friendly environment.
“This place has a lot of potential,” he said.