What’s happening at Trinity?

Crews are renovating the former Trinity Restaurant & Lounge, which has sat vacant for a couple years, in advance of a new restaurant opening in the location. Photo: Matthew McGrath/For the Anchor.Crews are renovating the former Trinity Restaurant & Lounge, which has sat vacant for a couple years, in advance of a new restaurant opening in the location. Photo: Matthew McGrath/For the Anchor.

KEYPORT — It’s no secret that there is a lot of work being done at 84 Broad St. — the former Trinity Restaurant & Lounge.

But what, exactly, is happening there is still somewhat of a mystery.

Ken Schwartz owns the the company that controls liquor license once assigned to the property. He’s a car dealer living in Red Bank who owns several properties in downtown Keyport including McDonagh’s Pub.He avoided explaining  what exactly he plans on doing with the church when asked about his plans for the property.

Likewise, Ken Lawlor and Chris Sanborn, Schwartz’s business partners at McDonagh’s Pub, dismissed rumors that the church would become an upscale coal-fired pizzeria or a steakhouse when they confirmed their partnership had purchased the property.

Trinity Restaurant & Lounge first opened in 2007. The restaurant was a venture of Charles Merla, the president of the Keyport Bayfront Business Cooperative. It quickly caught the attention of the state’s foodie community.

Despite that initial success, Trinity was forced to close its doors.

“I’ve seen it for a couple years just sitting,” Schwartz said, who originally bought the hall from the church congregation before selling it to Merla. “It’s not a good look for a great town … So I decided that if no one was doing anything with it, I’ll do it.”

But in a telephone interview on Saturday, Schwartz didn’t exactly say what it is he is going to do.

Here’s the bullet points of what he said:

  • It’s going to be a restaurant.
  • It’s not going to be like the pub.
  • It will have a lot of outdoor seating.
  • It will not be fine dining, but it will have great food.
  • It will be affordable.
  • The “essence” of the building will be maintained.

Available public records offer some more clues, but don’t paint a clear picture either.

The sanctuary was purchased in late October for $315,000 by the blandly named Eighty Four Broad Street Event Space LLC in Red Bank (emphasis added), according to records filed in the Monmouth County Clerk’s Office.

The address of that company is the same as Keyport Waterfront Liquor License LLC, which recently took control of the the liquor license previously owned by Keyport Trinity LLC, of Hazlet. Waterfront Liquor is wholly owned by Schwartz.

The construction permits don’t offer much information.

The borough construction office reported through the borough clerk that two permits were issued for 84 Broad Street: one is for interior demolition and the second is for a split heating and air conditioning system.

The construction was desperately needed because the building has sat vacant for so long, Schwartz said.

The biggest clues come from the person-to-person liquor license transfer application, which the Anchor obtained through the borough clerk’s office.

The transfer between Keyport Trinity LLC, of Hazlet, and Keyport Waterfront Liquor LLC, of the same Red Bank address as Eighty Four Broad Street Event Space was approved by the borough council earlier this month.

At that time, officials said that the license would become a pocket license, which means that it is not associated with any address. That bears out in a reading of the application.

The application is signed by Schwarz.

He wrote in the application that the license will not be immediately used upon issuance because the restaurant in which he wants to use the license “needs to be constructed.”

He has not chosen a trade name for the business, but the license will be used for a restaurant and catering.

Whatever the venture at Trinity will be, it’s expected to open in December, according to the license application.