Municipal and Chamber of Commerce leaders in recent years have been promoting cultural tourism as a means of drawing visitors, but perhaps they should alter that focus to culinary tourism.
In the coming weeks, city boards will be reviewing plans for creation of the Merrimac Ale House, at 40 Merrimac St., which until recently housed Davis Auto Parts.
Several other new eateries are planned, and the city will likely be hosting a historic high number of venues if all materialize.
It recently became known that the Merrimac Ale House will have a capacity of 431, which would make it just about the largest in the city. Michael’s Harborside holds 420 to 440.
(An aside: Your Scribe was concussed into a state of shock and awe upon hearing the Ale House will have 100 different beers on tap, but team doctors here have cleared me to return to my stone-carving.)
The potential arrival of the Ale House is noteworthy because the city appears to be entering a dynamic era of restaurants and drinking spots.
The Newburyport Redevelopment Authority has said that it will have at least one restaurant on its nearby property. (Actually, it has used the plural, as in “shops and restaurants.”)
On State Street, Ceia Kitchen and Bar is moving across the thoroughfare and will be expanding in the space formerly occupied by the Rockfish.
In its place, restaurateur Nancy Batiste-Caswell will be putting a new eatery, Brine. It will be an oyster bar, and it recently received a liquor permit from the city’s licensing commission.
So it appears that there will be least 631 new restaurant seats coming here, plus perhaps 400 seats in upgraded venues.
Some business veterans have expressed concern that there will not be enough parking for everyone. Still, a recent parking study showed that the city’s parking resources are underutilized and should be adequate for all days save Yankee Homecoming.