Note: This story was last updated at 11:20 a.m. Feb. 3.
The Riverside Grille was closed on Monday, and developers and businessmen Rick and Ryan Chinn announced the waterfront development on Melton Lake Drive has been sold to the Copper Cellar Family of Restaurants.
It’s not clear which of the Copper Cellar restaurant brands might move into the Oak Ridge restaurant site. Options could include Copper Cellar, Chesapeake’s, Calhoun’s, and Smokey Mountain Brewery, among others.
The Chinns have owned the roughly seven-acre Melton Lake property for 10 years. They have a perpetual easement on it, which is like a long-term lease, from the Tennessee Valley Authority, Rick Chinn said Monday night. The Copper Cellar Family of Restaurants will own the perpetual easement starting this week, including the land, the 12,000-square-foot building, and its parking lots, Chinn said.
He called the Copper Cellar restaurant family the premier restaurant company in East Tennessee. He said he and Ryan Chinn, who are partners in R&R Investors, have done a fairly good job with the property, keeping it in pristine condition, “but we’re not restaurateurs.”
Chinn said he can’t discuss the purchase price. But R&R invested several million dollars about a decade ago developing the once-overgrown site, Chinn said. It had been unused for years.
Starting in 2007, the property, which is at the start of the 2,000-meter Oak Ridge rowing course, was home to Flatwater Grill. It has been Riverside Grille for about four years. Both were upscale restaurants with a bar area.
There were some improvements made along the waterfront for a national rowing championship in 2007, including rip rap and docks.
It’s not clear how long renovations for the new restaurant will take, or what the long-term plans for the building’s events center will be, Chinn said.
But he and Ryan Chinn are excited about the new ownership.
“At a time when our local economy has some real momentum with the mall re-development, our National Park, (the proposed) Uranium Processing Facility, and other positive activity, we are very pleased to welcome the Copper Cellar Family of Restaurants to our community, Oak Ridge,” Rick Chinn said.
In a press release, the Chinns said the current restaurant’s kitchen and dining room would close immediately to allow renovations for the new concept. An electronic sign announced the restaurant was closed on Monday evening, and a cable blocked the entrance to the parking lot.
The press release said the Copper Cellar Family of Restaurants will attempt to work with currently scheduled events.
“During renovation, the events center on the property will remain open, and all events will be honored,” the Chinns said. For questions regarding an event, contact Kimberly Sterchi at (865) 673-3399.
Some Riverside Grille employees have objected to not receiving advance notice of the restaurant’s closure.
“I’m sorry. I want to express my deep gratitude to all the employees,” Chinn said. “We think it was the best decision for the company.” There were confidentiality requirements in place, he said.
Chinn said the Riverside Grille workers have done a great job, and he hopes the new company will consider hiring some of them, but he and Ryan Chinn don’t have control over that.
R&R Investors owned Riverside Grille, and another company managed it.
The purchase by Copper Cellar Family of Restaurants has generated a lot of excitement in Oak Ridge, and the sale was widely discussed in the city.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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