The latest branch of the landmark Philadelphia restaurant chain Chickie's and Pete's will open in Atlantic City this summer, helped by money from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.
The CRDA took steps at its Tuesday meeting to approve nearly $1.2 million for a facade renovation project that will open up part of the casino beachfront wall with new windows, allowing patrons to see the beach and Boardwalk.
Tropicana will contribute another $6 million for the project, which will extend north from the casino’s current marketplace entrance in the first of its two phases.
“I say this is phase one because Tropicana does have plans to enhance the balance of the facade in the very near future,” said Mark Petrella, of SOSH Architects, who presented the plans.
Chickie's & Pete's Crab House and Sports Bar plans a two-story restaurant that will face the Boardwalk, said Pete Ciarrocchi, the chain’s chairman and CEO. With plans to be operational by Memorial Day, he said, “We’re bringing crabs to the ocean.”
Ciarrocchi said he thought Chickie’s and Pete’s would be a great fit in the resort, saying negotiations over the new restaurant have been going on for about a year and a half.
He directed questions about the value of the CRDA’s facade program for his restaurant to Tropicana. “That wasn’t something we did,” Ciarrocchi said. “We’re just going in and operating.”
Petrella said Chickie’s and Pete’s will take over the first-floor space that currently houses Boardwalk Favorites, which offers a mix of hot dogs, pretzels and cotton candy. The second-floor space that will be devoted to the new restaurant is currently unoccupied.
Plans to open up the restaurant to the Boardwalk with large windows fit in well with CRDA’s call for “active” casino facades facing the Boardwalk, Petrella said.
“Patrons within the restaurant can see the ocean, and passers-by on the Boardwalk will have the opportunity to see some activity,” he said.
Chickie’s and Pete’s signed a 10-year lease for the 16,000-square-foot space at Tropicana, he said. By comparison, the chain’s branch in Egg Harbor Township, its first in New Jersey, measures about 10,000 square feet. Chickie’s and Pete’s has also had smaller stands in Wildwood and Ocean City over the past two summers.
Ciarrocchi said the new Atlantic City restaurant plans to have bars at both the casino and Boardwalk level.
In addition to more than 50 televisions, Chickie’s and Pete’s also plans to bring the PLAY2 Interactive Sports Bar concept with them to the new restaurant.
“There’s a lot of gaming, but not a lot of games” in Atlantic City, Ciarrocchi said.
The PLAY2 system allows parties to rent a room and play Wii, Xbox or other games for an hourly fee, or kick back and watch a sporting event.
The restaurant also offers this at their South Philadelphia and Parx Casino branches in the Philadelphia area.
“It’s like a game cage,” Ciarrocchi said. “You can go in and do all these things, or you can just watch a game.”
Ciarrocchi said he believed the Chickie’s and Pete’s restaurant would fit in with Tropicana’s other offerings, which includes restaurants such as the Palm and Cuba Libre. “They have great food, great restaurants,” Ciarrocchi said. The environment at the casinos, he said, “its more ‘action’ than ‘sleek-refined.’”
He identified the design as similar to the Parx Casino, but said the look will be a little more contemporary and with an emphasis on high-end design.
Ciarrocchi said, “It’s going to be very successful, and very Atlantic City, let’s put it that way.”
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