With a liquor license transfer approved in July, a new restaurant planned for the former Spat's Cafe location in State College is moving forward with plans for renovations and additions to the space.
Queenstown restaurant, which owner Martin Gillespie said will serve New Zealand-inspired fare in upscale but casual environment, is planning to open at 142 E. College Ave., in the Foster Building above Doggie's Pub, while also expanding into the former Clothesline apparel outlet location at 138 E. College Ave. and the second floor of the adjoining Homerella Building on South Pugh Street.
Interior demolition work has been going on since the summer, but on Wednesday architect Albert Drobka presented final development plans to State College Planning Commission.
The interior of the building is being reconfigured and the existing entrance will remain. A new handicap entrance will lead to a second doorway, that also serves as a new entry and exit for residents of the apartments on the upper floors. Drobka said the front area of the former Clothesline building also will be enclosed. The Clothesline has moved next door to 136 E. College Ave.
"Currently there is no ADA access to the space, so we will do that with the ramp," Drobka said. "Also there were no handicap restroom facilities, so that will be upgraded."
At the front of the restaurant will be two dining areas and a C-shaped bar, along with the kitchen and server stations.
An equipment platform that connects the Foster Building to the Homerella Building will be enclosed and lead to the back portion of the restaurant, which will have a small bar, restrooms and additional dining space.
New outdoor seating decks also are included in the plans. One, with seating for 28, will overlook Doggie's outdoor beer garden from above the bar's outdoor walk-in cooler. The other, with seating for 26, will be above the Doggie's entrance on South Pugh Street.
Gillespie previously said his idea is to have more windows for better views to the outside and inside to give the restaurant an open feel. That is reflected in the development plans as well.
"We’re going to open up the wall along Pugh Street and even more so on College Avenue to get more connectivity with the street so people can see into the building and people in the building can watch the street," Drobka said.
New windows also will be added to the second floor of the Homerella Building. The front of the restaurant will be exposed brick, which will extend just around the corner of Pugh Street. For the rest of the exterior, the existing, recently installed vinyl siding will be painted.
Planning commission had few comments about the plan, but recommended that the restaurant ensure paint selected for the vinyl siding will not peel. The development plan only requires borough planning staff approval before moving forward and senior planner Greg Garthe said among the items for review is making sure a traffic study is not needed.
Gillespie, who grew up in State College, is opening the restaurant with his wife, Deanna, a State College native. Both graduated from Penn State, where Martin was a gymnast and Deanna was a champion equestrian. A retired orthopedic surgeon, Martin Gillespie co-owns with two partners five successful Queenstown restaurants in San Diego, Calif.
He said the State College restaurant will be most closely modeled on the Queenstown Public House, which he described as as "subtle and warm" and "clean and comfortable." The new restaurant's menu will draw on other Queenstown restaurants, but like those also will have its own unique selections with a variety of price points for meals ranging from burgers and salads to fish and steaks. Gillespie said food will be locally-sourced as much as possible.
State College Borough Council approved in July a liquor license transfer for the restaurant with no restriction on the ration of alcohol to food sales, which Gillespie had sought in order to be able to sell high-end alcohol without skewing percentages or having to increase the price of food. He stressed that Queenstown will be an upscale restaurant and not a college bar.
No opening date has been set as of yet, but it is likely to be in early 2020.