Bluewater Grill in Newport Beach, the original inspiration for the eight-restaurant Bluewater family stretching from San Diego, Orange, and Los Angeles counties to the Inland Empire, California’s Central Coast, and Phoenix, has been reborn following a multi-million-dollar renovation that was delayed several years because of the pandemic.
Reopening the week of April 11 after a three-month closure, the iconic, 5,000-square foot restaurant now boasts a contemporary coastal casual look and feel with new booths, tables, chairs, dish and glassware; upgraded cocktail and Oyster bars; new tile floors inside and out; a new host desk; and a refreshed exterior with new colors and awnings.
The renovation represents a significant milestone in the 85-year history of the 630 Lido Park Drive building in Newport’s Cannery Village, which started life as the Sea Shanty and then housed Delaney’s before becoming the first Bluewater Grill in 1996.
“This project was more than just a remodel – it was a reimagining of the classic fish house theme that has served more than 7 million guests in Newport alone and led to 26 years of Bluewater Grills across California and Arizona,” said Bluewater co-founder and co-owner Jimmy Ulcickas. “As a company founded by fishermen and those who are passionate about the sea, our goal has been to honor local fishing lore – a theme repeated in the seven Bluewater Grills to follow – so we knew we wanted to retain this unique legacy while offering our longest-term customers a stylish, updated environment.”
According to Ulcickas, the timing of the project during the pandemic proved to be both a challenge and a blessing. “What started as a simple refresh in 2019 for our 25th anniversary in 2021 turned into a much larger project because of COVID-19 delays and the discovery of deteriorated structural elements that happen when a harborside building is exposed to the ocean for 85 years. “Fortunately, we were able to sign a new lease and work with the City around pandemic-era closures to make the multi-million-dollar investment not only in our brand but in the future of Cannery Village and the Orange County restaurant scene. We’re excited for the next 26 years.”
Newport Beach’s DbaC, Inc. served as general contractor while Robinson Brown Design of La Jolla, responsible for the design of Bluewater Grills in Santa Barbara, Carlsbad, and Avalon on Catalina Island, provided the interior design.
Despite the restaurant-wide remodel, certain Bluewater Newport staples will remain the same, including its private dock for customers arriving by boat and a menu by Executive Chef Valentin Salas focused on the freshest certified-sustainable seafood. Bluewater Grill was one of the first West Coast seafood restaurants to apply a full-disclosure menu philosophy and publish a Fish Origins Chart showing the specific farmed or wild source of every item on the menu.
Chef Valentine has been training other Bluewater chefs during the temporary Newport Beach closure, while many of the restaurant’s long-term servers and other personnel have been filling shifts at other Bluewater Grills.
For locations, operating hours, menus, and other details, go to www.bluewatergrill.com.