Jeff's Taproom receives EDC grant, begins expansion
By Rachel Lord
One of Bridgeville's most popular spots is getting a long-awaited expansion. Jeff's Taproom on Market St. will be expanding into the building next door to take up the whole corner of Market and Mill Sts. This expansion of a business on Market St. qualified for an Economic Development Committee grant, which was presented to G.L. Jefferson for his project by the EDC and announced at the June Bridgeville Commission meeting. "I'm going to use it mostly for a nice outdoor sign that Phillip's Sign is doing for me," Jefferson said. The grant will cover probably half of the cost of the signage, and perhaps 30-40 percent of the work he is doing on the outside. "Whats [the EDC] is trying to accomplish is to dress up Market St," he explained, "so we're trying to make the street more appealing, and that's what we shot for."
You often see renovation shows on TV, and they always say that a good outside presence draws people inside, he added. "We're trying to step up our game and try to make things look really appealing and attractive, with a lot of lighting outside to try to draw people in," Jefferson continued. "As soon as they sent the applications around about doing that, it was kind of a no-brainer. I'm spending the money anyway. I was blessed and lucky enough to get the grant." The Town also has been "absolutely great" and supportive with Jefferson's decision to purchase the building next door as well, according to Jefferson; there have been a lot of businesses that have failed there.
Many have told him he should have purchased it seven or eight years ago, but he didn't have the money then; now, he was able to purchase the property for just over $150,000, well under what it had sold for then at around $240,000. He has done renovations to his own building since 2005, by opening up one wall to double the restaurant's size. Part of the issue with businesses in the corner property, he said, was parking space, which Jeff's Taproom is not lacking. In addition to the eight or nine spaces available for the corner, there is street parking on S. Cannon St. and Market St., The State Services Center closes at 4:30, so people often park in that lot or behind Jeff's, as he owns all the paved area.
Currently, bands and DJs play in the back left corner of the seating area inside, and there is hardly any room for them. The kitchen contains only a 36-inch grill and a double fryer, which severely limits the amount of food they are capable of putting out at once; they simply don't have the room for any more. "As big as our burgers are, by the time you get ten burgers on there you don't have room for a cheesesteak or this and this that you need to get on the grill and get going," Jefferson said. The burgers are 1/3 pound of meat, and every one is made to order, not pre-cooked.
"We're known for our burgers," he added. "We do close to 600 pounds of burger a week." With these conditions, the estimated 15-20 minutes that is a standard wait-time for food in the restaurant industry can easily become an hour for them on a busy Friday night. On occasion, customers have become frustrated with that wait. "That's discouraging, watching people that want to come and get something to eat and they walk out the door," he continued. "That's really not acceptable."
The fact is, as Jefferson put it, "We're busting at the seams." No wonder, though, when you account for the pool league and trivia groups in addition to the regular crowd. "I have one of the largest pool leagues in the state," Jefferson confirmed.
With both APA (American Poolplayers Association) and BCA leagues coming in on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights, it gets packed. The pool crowd accounts for around 70-90 people per night, and with other guests, that number can climb to 100 on Thursdays. Then on Wednesday nights, trivia draws in a large crowd from Heritage Shores, with a solid 75-100 people in the restaurant. "There's nights that we have 110-115 people crammed into this room," he estimated. "Our leagues and our trivia take over the whole place, and I've talked to some people from Seaford that come up quite a bit and those guys [say], 'We'd like to come up during the week, but there's nowhere to sit. We've got more chance of getting a seat on the weekends than during the week because you're so jammed up all the time.'" This expansion, therefore, is desperately needed. "That's really going to change the game up, I mean tremendously," he said. The pool tables are being moved into the other building, as is the package store up front that currently limits the kitchen space. The floor plan will be open, with the wall being taken out all along the side to connect the two spaces seamlessly. There will be additional bar-style seating running into the new addition as well, and bands will play on that side. Jefferson also believes he will be able to add five or six more jobs out of it.
The renovation work began Saturday, June 24, tearing out walls in the new space. They continued through Sunday, getting a lot done in just two days. The biggest piece going into it all will be the truss work to connect the two buildings at the roof and ceiling. Jefferson believes that will be finished fairly quickly. In fact, he believes the whole project will be wrapped up by the first week in September.
"I actually think that if all the permits go through as smooth as what the town is talking about, it might be the middle of August," he said. Obviously, this means the work will be completed in time for Apple Scrapple, a busy weekend for Jeff's. Though people always know that it's "tent city" there, and they come no matter the weather, it is good to know that there will be plenty more space to add more people to the festivities. "It's exciting," Jefferson added. "I'm really happy about it."
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