By Bianca Fortis
People are constantly asking George O’Neill when his restaurant is going to reopen.
“Day in and day out,” he said. “It never stops.”
He still can’t guarantee when the opening day will be, but he’s hoping for the July 4 weekend, he said.
His eponymous eatery, O’Neill’s, burned down in May 2011 during a five-alarm grease fire. The restaurant, at 64-21 53rd St. in Maspeth, was gutted.
Within days of the disaster, O’Neill had a plan in place to rebuild. Since then, the reopening has been delayed a few times due to issues with construction.
O’Neill said the delays have already disappointed potential customers; he felt particularly bad for one party of 16 people who had to be turned away when they showed up for dinner.
But the delay will be worthwhile.
“It’s really coming out magnificently,” O’Neill said. “It’s a beautiful bar. It’s got the same feel.”
One element that might be noticeably different — for now — is the missing signed photographs of the many celebrities and athletes who ate at the restaurant. Those were burned in the fire.
O’Neill said he is trying to replace them and has written to those same stars to see if they’ll help.
He hopes to close 53rd Street to have an opening ceremony outside the restaurant, but that’s among the details he is still trying to work out.
The restaurant has belonged to his family since 1928, when it was called the Plateau Tavern and owned by O’Neill’s father. The eatery grew with the neighborhood and became a popular destination for patrons who were celebrating major events or just wanted to grab a bite.
The new space can hold 400 people comfortably, O’Neill said, and features a large catering hall that can serve larger parties such as weddings.
“It’s going to be a very attractive place,” he said. “A very comfortable place.”
O’Neill knows exactly how many days have passed since the fire, and he estimates he has spent each one of them working to rebuild.
He is most excited about the opportunity to get some of his old customers back.
“I miss quite a few of the customers that I haven’t seen in a couple of years,” he said. “People I’ve known all my life. Hopefully, they’ll all come back.”
Reach reporter Bianca Fortis by email at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4546.