Two new restaurants are expected to open this year at Calhoun Street Promenade, more evidence of improvements in Old Town Bluffton's economy, business owners say.
The concept for the first restaurant, already under construction, is a "combination pizza place and art gallery," said Bill Herbkersman, a minority partner in the projects. It will occupy a 2,400-square-foot building and feature a full bar and local art on the walls.
Construction hasn't yet begun on the second restaurant, which will be next door and occupy about 1,900 square feet. It will serve draft beers, burgers and sandwiches and fries, Herbkersman said. Both businesses will be between Captain Woody's and Bluffton BBQ.
The name of the first restaurant hasn't been disclosed, but the burger eatery will be called River Town Tavern.
"Both are pretty cool and pretty needed in the downtown," said Herbkersman, who also is a Republican state House representative. "We are talking about the hours being until 10 at night."
Developers already have received town approval for the projects, but still must apply for a building permit for the second structure, said Katie Woodruff, town neighborhood-preservation planner.
Ted Huffman, owner of Bluffton BBQ, said he's fine with the restaurants going in next door, especially if they bring more people to the promenade.
"Bill's vision for this was always for a restaurant row. I knew that from day one," said Huffman, who is also a Bluffton town councilman. "... My feeling is, more feet on the street doesn't bother me as long as we don't double up on anything."
Other business owners and residents in the development, which includes a mix of professional offices and shops, restaurants and housing, echoed Huffman's sentiment.
There is some concern, however, that the development lacks enough parking to accommodate dozens of additional vehicles on busy nights.
"The more the merrier down here," said Paula Baughan, co-owner of Booksalicious, adding that more parking might be needed to support the new restaurants.
Her friend Susan Scott, who lives in a second-floor condo in the development, added that parking is especially difficult during the Thursday farmers markets.
Herbkersman predicted the pizza restaurant would open in November, and the tavern probably would open a month or so later.
Meanwhile, plans to build a coffeehouse space along S.C. 46 at the promenade's south end are in the works. Herbkersman said owners of The Corner Perk have tentatively agreed to operate the business.
"There are so many people that want to be downtown," he said. "They see what Captain Woody's and Bluffton BBQ and Corks are doing and want to be part of that success."