Pearl Oyster Grill coming to Dover Downs

DOVER — Oysters will be making a comeback in Dover Downs Hotel & Casino.

A new seafood restaurant called Pearl Oyster Grill will be opening inside the casino later this summer in the former location of Doc Magrogan’s Oyster House, according to Dover Downs management.

The restaurant space has sat vacant since Doc Magrogan’s shut its doors last December after nearly 10 years in business. According to a Doc’s Facebook page post last November, the casino restaurant met its end due to unsuccessful “lease negotiations.”

Unlike Doc Magrogan’s Oyster House — which has another, still open, location in Sea Isle, New Jersey — Pearl Oyster Grill will be owned and operated by Dover Downs.

Management expects the new restaurant to add between 60 and 80 new jobs.

“Pearl Oyster Grill will be a great addition for our facility and our guests,” Ed Sutor, president and CEO of Dover Downs said in a statement.

Work on the location has already started, noted Dover Downs spokeswoman Ann Stack.

“The alterations won’t be too extensive, we’ll be mainly focusing on decor changes,” she said.

Pearl Oyster Grill will offer a full seafood menu, featuring fresh oysters, Maine lobster tail, Alaskan king crab legs, shrimp platters and crab cakes, as well as daily specials, appetizers, specialty drinks, an extensive wine list and more, Ms. Stack said.

‘Casino relief bill’
Although Dover Downs management noted last year that they would “explore all options for the space” and would likely consider a seafood-based replacement, they attributed the announcement to the recently passed “casino relief” bill.

Sen. Brian Bushweller gets a standing ovation from members for his work on the casino legislation. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

The legislation to give the state’s casinos a long-sought tax break was signed into law Saturday, June 30, the final night of the General Assembly session. The law will take $16.8 million in revenue away from the state government in perpetuity but will, supporters have said, reverse the situation for Delaware’s struggling gaming establishments.

The legislation will lower the slot tax rate 1 percent, slash the table game tax rate almost in half and suspend the $3 million table game license fee. It will also give the casinos a chance to decrease the slot rate another 2 percent by investing a certain amount of money in their facilities and will provide additional money to the horseracing industry.

The product of years of work by casino executives, Sen. Brian Bushweller, D-Dover, and others, the bill was developed after negotiations between the administration and the casinos and was further amended by the House of Representatives.

“The casino industry is the No. 1 private employer in Kent County, and the bill helps ensure that remains the case, that all those thousands of employees, subcontractors and their families will breathe a little easier,” Sen. Bushweller said at the time.

Supporters have said that change was critical to prevent jobs from being eliminated, not to mention to ensure the state keeps receiving more than $150 million in revenue from gaming.

Dover Downs had 1,401 employees, including 889 full-time workers, as of the end of 2016, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Although Dover Downs has avoided discussing bankruptcy, it lost nearly $1.1 million in 2017, the second time in four years it has ended the year in the red.

The bill is the biggest tax break the casinos have received in a decade, Mr. Sutor said after the vote.

“It’s been a long time coming, but we’re relieved it’s finally here. … We’re going to live up to our end of it, we’re going to make capital investments, we’re going to make additional marketing expenses, we’re going to try to drive additional business to the state of Delaware,” he added.

According to Ms. Stack, the upcoming oyster house is one of the first results of new capital reinvestments.
“The tax relief offered allows us to make these reinvestments and the opening of the new restaurant is going hand-in-hand with that,” she said.

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