MIDDLETOWN – If all goes well, the ambitious vision of a couple of local restaurants to bring a combined food, brewery, fast food stand and ice cream and coffee bar by the river can be realized as soon as next year.

The city has given prior approval to a request from a local pub to take over the former 31,000-square-foot Mattabesett Canoe Club restaurant on the Connecticut Riverbank.

The effort is both an “exciting adventure” and a bit “awful,” said Eli Cannon’s Tap Room co-owner Rocco Lamonica, who runs the North End restaurant at 695 Main St. with his wife Aubrey. They bought the business from founder Phil Ouellette in 2018.

The three-story space has been “underestimated in the past,” Rocco Lamonica said. “When the opportunity arose, it was an easy decision.” The entire building will be “empty,” he said.

The town owns the Harbor Drive site and was leased to Frank Maratta Jr., who leased it to the restaurant owners. The three parties mutually decided to terminate the agreement and the members of the Joint Council concluded the lease in February.

The other finalist was a collaboration between Aquiline Drones, from Hartford, and Flying Monkey Grill Bar, Newington. The idea was to deliver food to boats on the Connecticut River by drone, without the operators having to place their handicrafts.

Chairman Ben Florsheim made the final selection, according to Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce President Larry McHugh.

Lamonicas, who aim to employ between 80 and 100 more staff, will cater to a variety of diets, including gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian. The menu will include light dishes with seafood and pasta meals.

They also plan to collaborate with the Middletown Public Schools business development team on a new initiative – a hut – that aims to introduce high school seniors to the inner workings of running a small business, he said. Students will receive credit for community service hours.

Lamonica, who started with Eli at the age of 19 and continued on his path, wants to support young entrepreneurs. “It’s an exciting opportunity. Maybe we get one in 100 kids who feel the same as me. ”

The plan is to sell the street price to customers looking for a bite without having to go inside. Customers can sit at picnic tables and benches expected to be installed by the city overlooking the river, Lamonica said.

“You will be able to walk upstairs, grab your hot $ 2 dog or quick burger and walk on the curb, and enjoy the atmosphere the city is trying to create there,” he said.

Also in an effort to promote women-owned small businesses, the couple turned to owners of North End-based Perkatory Coffee Roasters to open a java bar, as well as NoRA Cupcake Co., which recently opened Harley’s Jailhouse, at 51 Warwick St., in a 19th-century building in front of the Alma House in late March.

Lamonica hopes NoRA creates an ice cream signing line.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the plan is to host a microwave on the second floor, in a nod of Eli’s large beer offerings. One has not yet been selected.

The city is in the process of creating a lease, said deputy mayor and chairman of the Economic Development Commission Vincent Loffredo, who stressed that no formal agreement has been reached.

“They have a well-established reputation in the community, and it is extraordinary and wonderful that they hope to invest in this particular proposal,” Loffredo said. “They will be part of a new day – a new and improved yacht club.”

The terms, which require a $ 10 per square foot contract, include a 10-year profession, with the option of two-, five-year renovations being negotiated, Loffredo said. It would involve an annual increase of up to 2.5 percent.

If an agreement is reached, the proposal will be submitted to the research committee in August, and finally, for approval to the Joint Council.

The municipality would pay for a new roof and HVAC system, as well as updates to the sprinkler system and access to the ADA, said Loffredo, who estimates it will cost the local government $ 600,000. There is also the possibility that Middletown will qualify to use a portion of its $ 12 million in US Rescue Plan grants.

Another option could be to use some of the $ 55 million 21st Century Infrastructure Development Bonds approved by voters in 2020, Loffredo said.

The lease can be signed as early as May 22, and Lamonicas are awaiting opening for May 1, 2022.

The fact that the concept is an idea of ​​local business owners is exciting, McHugh said.

“Rocco and Aubrey are key elements of the community. These are extraordinary plans with a lot of foresight.”

“Almost it is almost as if we are bringing the whole of northern Middletown to the waterfront. This is extremely important, “said Lamonica. “We developed the whole concept around Middletown: How to make Middletown better, how do we support the businesses that support us?”

Director of Planning, Conservation and Development Joseph Samolis said the plans are in line with the city’s future vision. “We want the river bank to be a community space and a community-run restaurant in the sense of what’s going on down there.”

Eli’s “has already invested significantly in neighborhoods as well as downtown,” Samolis said. “It’s exciting to see them bring what they do there.”