Return Of Straight Wharf Fish Store Includes New 62-Seat Restaurant

Jason Graziadei •


*Editor's note: this story was published before Charles Schwab released a statement on April 10, 2023 indicating his support for the Straight Wharf Fish Store.

Plans for the return of the Straight Wharf Fish Store are coming into focus, with owners Gabriel Frasca and Kevin Burleson unveiling their vision to bring back both the fish market and the ice cream, as well as a new 62-seat restaurant on the waterfront.

Renamed as the Straight Wharf Fish Market - which Frasca and Burleson hope to have reopened by June - the establishment will feature a full-service seafood market, a family-friendly restaurant with a take-out menu, and soft-serve ice cream, a nod to the former Star’s ice cream shop in the location.

“We aim to be that local clam shack that every Cape and coastal town has on the water, serving classics like clam rolls, fish sandwiches, lobster rolls, and a few modern touches as well,” Burleson wrote to the Select Board as part of the establishment’s license application.

Burleson, an island chef since 2003 who previously worked at the Boarding House and The Pearl, as well as Corazon del Mar, Straight Wharf Restaurant, and most recently 167 Raw, stated that once the new Straight Wharf Fish Market is back, the intention is for it to be open from April through Christmas Stroll, with the operating hours likely 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Frasca, who took over operations at Straight Wharf Restaurant in 2006 and previously owned and operated Provisions for nearly a decade, is Burleson’s partner in the new venture. Frasca told the Current that Straight Wharf Fish Market would serve walk-ins only, and the restaurant would not take reservations. It will utilize an online waitlist so people don't have to hover around the area.

The 62-seat restaurant would include 14 seats outdoors on the dock. It will be a reincarnation of the former Straight Wharf Fish Store and Stars Ice Cream run by Walter Sadowski closed in mid-March, 2021.

“We feel that Straight Wharf Fish will be the type of addition to the Nantucket landscape that feels like it has always been there,” Burleson said.

On Wednesday, Burleson and Frasca will be seeking new licenses from the Select Board to open the establishment, including a common victualler (restaurant license), an entertainment license for non-live music, as well as a seasonal alcohol license that would allow them to serve beer and wine. There is no bar planned for Straight Wharf Fish Market, and Burleson and Frasca told the Select Board they do not want “late night crowds” at the restaurant.

“We simply would like the opportunity to offer beers on tap and in cans, as well as wine to pour and pair with our curated dishes,” Burleson said.

But the application for the alcohol license has prompted a backlash from a handful of island seasonal residents, specifically those who own property on the nearby Old North Wharf.

The opposition includes not only the Old North Wharf Cooperative, which is being represented by attorney Sarah Alger, but also two billionaire businessmen - Charles Schwab and Charles Johnson - who have hired attorney Danielle deBenedictis to oppose the granting of the alcohol and entertainment licenses, and the expansion of the establishment from a retail store into one that would include a sit-down restaurant.

On Monday, deBenedictis submitted a letter to the Select Board stating the location was inappropriate for a new liquor license given the proximity to residences on Old North Wharf, the prevalence of other nearby establishments with liquor licenses, as well as the potential for traffic and noise.

Others seasonal residents of Old North Wharf expressed similar concerns.

“For as long as I can remember, the (former) Straight Wharf Fish & Stars Ice Cream served as a significant buffer between the Old North Wharf and the lively crowds on Straight Wharf,” wrote Harvey Jones, an owner of cottages on Old North Wharf and an officer and treasurer of the Old North Wharf Cooperative, in a letter to the Select Board. “While the fish and ice cream were popular, there was no alcohol involved and their hours were reasonable. The prospect of a new bar and restaurant immediately adjacent to the Coop is scary and threatens the very quality of life on the wharf.”

The Select Board packet includes a handful of letters from the neighbors, including Peter Holmes, of 20 Old North Wharf.

“There appear to be more than enough establishments in the immediate area to provide food and beverage service,” Holmes wrote. “However, as others may point out, because of noise and foot traffic going to and coming from neighboring restaurants and bars adjacent to Old North Wharf, it became necessary for the residents of Old North Wharf to retain the services of private security personnel to maintain the privacy and ambiance of Old North Wharf. The presence of yet another bar and restaurant even closer to Old North Wharf cottages would likely be detrimental to neighboring owners and should not be permitted.”

Charles Johnson, the former head Franklin Templeton Investments, circulated a list of talking points to Old North Wharf property owners urging them to write their own letters of opposition.

The property, which is owned by Steve Karp’s New England Development and Nantucket Island Resorts, has been under construction for over a year. While the roof and top of the structure had been raised up on cribbing, it appears just about everything else will be completely new construction.

It is another aspect that Alger, the attorney for the Old North Wharf Cooperative, has objected to, claiming the building permit only allowed for the removal of equipment, drywall and walls. The project has “gone well beyond the scope of the permit,” Alger wrote, and said the new sit-down restaurant is a new use of the property that requires new permitting, and possibly a major commercial development permit from the Planning Board.

The hearings for the Straight Wharf Fish Market are set for Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. during the public hearing portion of the Select Board’s meeting. Tune in at this link.

Loading Ad
Loading Ad
Loading Ad

Current News