European investors buying The Quarter, finalizing purchase of Ceoltas
Two new restaurants — one with southwestern-inspired cuisine, the other an American gastropub with a "British touch" — will be filling existing restaurant spaces in downtown Harrisburg.
A group of New York investors, all originally from Europe, have finalized the purchase of The Quarter, a vacant restaurant at 321 N. Second St. That same group is within weeks of wrapping up a liquor license transfer to buy the Ceoltas Irish Pub restaurant across the street.
"We do believe it's the right time, according to the market, to buy something in downtown Harrisburg," said Erik Sohadze, one of the partners in VMV Fine Dining LLC. "A lot of properties are for sale and it's not easy to sell them. The market is very low at this moment."
He said he believes downtown property values will be "way higher" in a few years. Harrisburg is still in the early stages of a financial recovery following the crisis spurred by its incinerator debt.
The three partners in VMV Fine Dining also control VMV Restaurant Group LLC, which will be the buyer of the Ceoltas property.
Sohadze said it will take about five months to renovate The Quarter and convert it to a southwestern theme. Work is expected to begin in the next week, he said.
"We are going to invest around $500,000 in renovations in order to bring a fresh look to the building," he said.
He would not disclose the purchase price, but said it was a little less than the listing price of $825,000.
Dining will occupy most of the first floor with nightlife-type activities on the second, he said. The third floor might not open right away.
Across the street, the conversion of the Ceoltas space into a gastropub should take about three months, Sohadze said. "The Quarter is in worse condition (because it was vacant)."
Sohadze is a native of Belarus who moved to New York about six years ago. He grew up in a restaurant family in Europe and wanted to carry on the tradition in the U.S.
His partners, Anatoly Gutman and Vladimir Vladimirov, are originally from the Ukraine and Russia.
He credits Steve Dzuranin, an attorney from Wix, Wenger and Weidner, for helping the group throughout the restaurant-acquisition process. The partners had been looking for restaurant locations in New York and New Jersey before turning their attention to Pennsylvania, he said.
They went to Bethlehem and Philadelphia before coming to Harrisburg.
"We fell in love from first sight," he said, citing the history and the architecture downtown.
Sohadze has already moved to Cumberland County to oversee the restaurants. One of his partners will soon be joining him.