30-year-old Hilton Head favorite Old Oyster Factory sold to local restaurant group

A popular Hilton Head restaurant group has purchased one of the island’s oldest waterfront restaurants.

Coastal Restaurants and Bars — owned and operated by Tom Reilly, Peter Kenneweg, and their families for more than 40 years —purchased Old Oyster Factory, according to a Wednesday press release.

Old Oyster Factory — known for its unique, mid-island location serving local seafood — will officially join the restaurant group Sept. 3, but loyal customers need not worry about the upcoming switch.

“We will not be making any major changes,” said Brendan Reilley, partner of the CRAB Group. “You don’t change a restaurant that has 30 years of being a top restaurant. They have an amazing staff, and we are happy to have them all join our family.”

That means Old Oyster Factory’s beloved happy hour menu will stay the same, spokesperson Katie Manley told the Island Packet.

The restaurant, built on an original oyster cannery off Marshland Road, boasts unique views of Hilton Head’s Broad Creek. It was voted one of the “Top 100 Scenic View Restaurants” by Open Table in 2016.

“From 1925 until the 1990s, 1700 acres of nearby creeks and wetlands were harvested and their yield brought to a one-story concrete building located directly under the restaurant,” Old Oyster Factory’s website said. “The oysters were then ferried across to the mainland where they were distributed from Savannah to Charleston and beyond.

Over the years, commercial development and natural selection tightened distribution, and eventually the state classified all the acreage as protected from commercial harvesting.”

Since Old Oyster Factory first opened in 1989, it has been owned by Ric Peterson, who also owns Red Fish on Hilton Head. Peterson used to own Red Fish- Bluffton before it closed, and Alexander’s in Palmetto Dunes before it sold. Red Fish’s Bluffton location was one of many restaurants that have shut down or reduced hours due to the area’s workforce shortage crisis.

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The Old Oyster Factory will be the CRAB group’s 10th establishment. The others are: The Crazy Crabs at Jarvis Creek and Harbour Town, Reilley’s Grill and Bar and the North End Pub, Aunt Chilada’s Easy Street Café, The Boardroom, Carolina Crab Company, Fishcamp on Broad Creek and Fishcamp on 11th Street at The Port of Port Royal.

Peterson said he wanted to sell the restaurant to the CRAB group because “they are a well-established, local organization and have a great reputation,” according to the press release.

“I knew the business and employees would be in good hands,” Peterson said in the release.

The recent move represents a trend on Hilton Head as more establishments have joined larger restaurant groups this year. In April, Charbar, Holy Tequila! and the recently opened Whiskey Room at Charbar were acquired by SERG, the largest hospitality group on the Hilton Head.

Mandy Matney is an award-winning journalist and self-proclaimed shark enthusiast from Kansas. She worked for newspapers in Missouri and Illinois before she realized Midwestern winters are horrible, then moved to Hilton Head in 2016. She is the breaking news editor at the Island Packet.