Seacoast's Beach Plum will open in Epping next springBy JASON SCHREIBER
Union Leader Correspondent
October 13. 2013 6:07PM
EPPING — The Beach Plum seafood restaurant known for its lobster rolls and ice cream on the Seacoast is heading inland.
The planning board Thursday approved a new 5,000-square-foot free-standing restaurant for the Brickyard Square shopping plaza.
The restaurant will be the third location for the Beach Plum, which has a seaside take-out stand on Route 1A in North Hampton and opened a larger restaurant with indoor seating on Route 1 in Portsmouth in 2011.
"We're very pleased to have the opportunity to come here," owner Robert Lee said of the new Epping location that's expected to open in April or May.
The restaurant will seat about 120 patrons inside and another 120 on an outdoor patio. Its menu includes seafood dinners, rolls and wraps, burgers and other sandwiches, soups and chili, and ice cream.
Lee said he expects to employ approximately 70 workers at the new location, which will look similar to the Portsmouth restaurant.
One of the Beach Plum's advantages is its quick service, according to Lee. The restaurant doesn't have a wait staff. Customers place their order at the counter and then take a seat. A bus person brings the food out in seven minutes, he said, and a tip jar is located on the counter if a customer wants to leave a tip.
It will also include a carved wooden sculpture of the restaurant's iconic grinning lobster holding ice cream cones in each claw.
Lee hoped to have some version of the sculpture placed inside a cupola atop the restaurant's roof, but planners said no signs are allowed above the roofline.
Shannon Alther of TMS Architects of Portsmouth said the lobster image is important for the Beach Plum's marketing.
"We wanted to try to celebrate that and use it as an architectural element," Alther said.
Lee agreed to place a cutout of the lobster on the Beach Plum sign attached in the center of the roof instead of inside the cupola.
The planning board also agreed to allow Lee to place a lobster sculpture on the patio, but they don't want it larger than 5 or 6 feet tall.
"I don't want the Statue of Liberty," said Joseph Foley, planning board chairman.
The Beach Plum has hit a few snags with the lobster at its other locations as well. The city of Portsmouth denied its request to stick the lobster sculpture in a prominent spot outside when it opened its restaurant there. The lobster ended up inside.
The carving was challenged in North Hampton as well when the town claimed it violated sign regulations because it was too big.
But Lee said the lobster is a big hit with younger customers and parents who enjoy taking photographs of their kids with the lobster.
"The kids climb on it all the time," Lee said.
The Beach Plum, which expects to break ground within the next month, is the latest restaurant planned for the shopping center at the junction of routes 125 and 101.
900 Degrees Wood Fired Pizzeria will open this week, following the recent openings of Popovers café and Kume Sushi Hibachi Steakhouse.
"We've been fortunate to have some high quality, local restaurants," said Doug Richardson, director of development for Waterstone Retail Development, the company that built the center.