New Brunswick

Saint John's Reversing Falls Restaurant getting pricier for new owner

While renovations continue on the old Reversing Falls Restaurant, the man behind the project said he’s committed to spending more than the $500,000 he originally promised.

Renovations will cost much more, but 'I’m going to give everything we can.'

The Reversing Falls Restaurant is getting a complete makeover, but it's taking longer than the new owner first thought. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

While renovations continue on the old Reversing Falls Restaurant, the man behind the project said he's committed to spending more than the $500,000 he originally promised.

The restaurant closed in 2014 and the city decided it would be cheaper to tear it down rather than improve it.

Last fall, city council awarded Max Kotlowski a 60-year lease of the property, saving it from demolition.

Originally Kotlowski planned on completing renovations to reopen in time for tourism season on June 1.

Ambitious plans for the interior have pushed back that date to the beginning of September.

New owner Max Kotlowski says renovations at the restaurant are going to cost a lot more than the $500,000 he first thought. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)
"The brain can go a lot of places" laughed Kotlowski, over the sound of contractors tearing off strips of interior paneling.

The planning stage took much longer than expected to get everything right, he said.

The original building was constructed in 1954 and Kotlowski said renovations in the 1980s helped improve it.

More work needed than first thought

But after so many years without improvements, he said a lot of work is required to return it to its former glory.

"We're going deep this time," he said.

That includes restoring original design features such as the incline windows that were replaced in 1982.

The new, 106-foot-long window will have a 15-degree angle over the water, giving tourists a better view of the rapids below. In the basement, Kotlowski opted to spend more again.

The new wine cellar for the restaurant incorporates the original dedication stone for the old suspension bridge built in 1852. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)
The original foundations of the suspension bridge built in 1852 will be worked into the restaurant's wine cellar.
We're going deep this time.- Max Kotlowski, owner

Another big expense is the planned skywalk on the building's roof, which Kotlowski hopes will help earn back his investment.

"The main source of income we believe is going to come from our Reversing Falls skywalk," he said.

A trip to the roof will cost $15 and will include access to the new lounge and theatre being built there.

Installation of the skywalk will begin in the next four to six weeks, he said.

Reinforced steel supports have been driven down into the bedrock to add extra stability.

Not easy being green

Outside, the building's appearance will be changing as well.

The front facade will be opened up and the foundation pressure washed.

Perhaps most encouraging for those who drive by is the new colour.

The latest estimate for the restaurant's reopening is September. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)
The often-mocked green siding is going to be replaced by cedar siding, which Kotlowski said will be kept its natural colour.

"Well it will cost me more than I planned," said Kotlowski, who is coy about how much more he will spend than the $500,000 he said.

"This building is not a door on the street, this is the Reversing Falls," Kotlowski said. "I'm going to give everything we can to be what it really deserves to be."