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Local Restaurateurs Revamping
Former McKenna’s On The Bay

Boathouse On The Bay Expected To Open
In February At Alamitos Bay Landing

By Samantha Mehlinger - Staff Writer

January 21, 2014 – Eric Johnson (along with business partner David Copely) and Long Beach restaurateur John Morris are teaming up again to put their spin on a long-time local eatery, soon to open under the new brand Boathouse On The Bay.

Just after the New Year, Bancap Commercial Real Estate Services announced that it was taking possession of McKenna’s On The Bay at Alamitos Bay Landing due to financial challenges after the restaurant’s majority owner, Nick Limer, passed away. A few days later, Naples Restaurant Group LLC, headed up by Auld Dubliner owners Johnson and Copely along with partners Dave Erickson, Glenn Russell, Josh Lowenthal and Matt Knabe, took ownership of the restaurant. Morris, who served as the general manager of McKenna’s, will serve in the same role for the rebranded restaurant.

Now a part owner of three large local eateries, including Legend’s Sports Bar, The Auld Dubliner and Boathouse On The Bay, Johnson’s career path seems to be mimicking that of Morris, who is known around town for his contribution to various restaurants over the years, including Legend’s Sports Bar, Mum’s, Smooth’s Sports Grille and McKenna’s. The similarity could be more than coincidence – Johnson has known Morris since he was a kid, having gone to school with his stepdaughter.

Boathouse on the Bay

When McKenna’s On The Bay closed and was taken over by Bancap Commercial
Real Estate Services, business partners Eric Johnson (left) and David Copely (right)
jumped at the chance to purchase the restaurant, along with several other investors.
Renamed The Boathouse On The Bay, the restaurant will reopen under the general management
of John Morris (center) some time in February. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Thomas McConville)

Years later, when Johnson and Copely teamed up to open The Auld Dubliner at The Pike at Rainbow Harbor, Morris took them under his wing, Johnson said. “I [had] spent most of my time in Belmont Shore and I wasn’t used to that environment,” he said of Downtown Long Beach. Morris gave the duo advice on how to build relationships with the groups frequenting the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center located just across the street, Johnson explained.

Morris and Johnson maintained their relationship and began looking for projects to take on together, Johnson said. When Legend’s, which Morris had founded in the 1970s and later sold, came up for sale, “we teamed up on that and we never looked back,” he said. The Boathouse is another chance for the two to collaborate on preserving a local staple. “It’s just one of those places where, as a restaurateur, for nice and fine dining I can’t think of a nicer location,” Johnson said.

Bancap is pleased with the new ownership, according to Whitney Latimer, principal and chief financial officer for the company. “They’re a good group for several reasons. The first reason is they have restaurant experience. They’ve got financial backing with some really good investors,” Latimer told the Business Journal. “And they’re all Long Beach guys,” he added.

Latimer is also glad that Morris is staying on as general manager. “He’s great at bringing people in the door and exposing and marketing the restaurant, and so the fact that they came to us and said that they wanted to hire him back was important,” Latimer said.

“McKenna’s was a successful restaurant. They want to tweak the model but they don’t want to change the model. We’re happy about that too,” Latimer said. Apart from minor touchups to the interior, such as new carpeting, much of the décor may stay the same. In terms of big changes, Johnson said, “We’re looking at doing a patio expansion.”

“We’ll keep a lot of what made that restaurant successful,” Johnson said of the menu, although he said the menu might feature a different spin on certain dishes.

Johnson estimates that Boathouse On The Bay should open some time in February.