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Bethany Blues leases Rehoboth location

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Nicola Pizza on 1 N. 1st Street in Rehoboth Beach. | DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING

Bethany Blues will take the location of Nicola Pizza on 1 N. 1st Street in Rehoboth Beach, come 2023.| DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING

REHOBOTH BEACH — The new owner of the downtown Nicola Pizza locations are working on deals to open two restaurants in their place, with one lease signed with the local barbecue chain Bethany Blues.

Dr. Michael Trahos, a representative of the Trahos family that owns several blocks of downtown Rehoboth Beach, told the Delaware Business Times that a lease was signed with Steve “Monty” Montgomery and his team to open Downtown Blues at 8 N. First St. It will be the popular chain’s first location in Rehoboth Beach, but third overall.

“We could not be more pleased that [Monty], Jim Weisgerber, Jessica Nathan, Zac Warner, and their Bethany Blues team will be opening Downtown Blues. They care deeply about our beach community and are committed to delivering a first-class dining experience for their guests,” Trahos told the DBT. “[That location] for decades has been the source of many amazing memories for beachgoers, and we are so pleased that Downtown Blues is going to carry that tradition on for years to come.”

Terms of the lease were not disclosed. Bethany Blues plans on renovating the space and has a target opening date of Easter 2023. Downtown Blues will be open throughout the year for both lunch and dinner, according to a press statement.

“While we were not planning to expand, when approached about this location, it just made too much sense. Our original Blues location in downtown Bethany is very popular for both dine-in and carry-out,” Montgomery said in a press statement.  “We feel downtown Rehoboth is a different market where so many can walk or bike to dine with us.  It’s very exciting to move into a space where I basically grew up eating Nic-o-bolis.”

Trahos confirmed he was working on a deal with another restaurant group to take over 71 Rehoboth Ave., but that announcement would be made at a later date.

Nicola Pizza, founded by Nick and Joan Caggilano, has been a Rehoboth Beach mainstay since it first opened on North First Street in 1971. Fifty years later, the pizzeria known for its famed “Nic-o-boli” strombolis expanded to a second location on 71 Rehoboth Ave. in 2010. But as the Caggilanos expanded their business interests with a Homes 2 Suites by Hilton off Route 1, the family opted to consolidate both restaurants to the same location.

Trahos, a cousin of Gus & Gus owner Constantine “Gus” Svolis, confirmed the family bought both Nicola Pizza locations in 2021 for a combined $4 million. Breaking the cost down, 71 Rehoboth Ave. was sold for $2.4 million and 8 N. First St. for $1.6 million.

“After taking over ownership of the Nicola properties, we were committed to identifying a restaurant group for the iconic location that would be embraced by both the local community and tourists,” Trahos said. “We have also felt that the ocean block of Rehoboth has always needed an authentic barbecue restaurant, and we have been waiting for the right opportunity to bring that concept to life.”

Montgomery is an established restaurateur in his own right, as he first started working at the now-known Starboard in Dewey Beach as a doorman and a bar-back at 18 years old. When the Herns family was ready to sell the venue in 1999, Montgomery turned to colleagues — including Weisgerber — he made at his “weekend” job at a Washington D.C. bar.

Four years after taking over The Starboard, Montgomery and Weisgerber and other partners opened Bethany Blues in Bethany Beach, with a second location in Lewes in 2009.

Today, Montgomery’s restaurant empire includes five restaurants, including Starboard Raw and 99 Sea Level in Bethany Beach.

Longtime Bethany Blues operators, Jessica Nathan and Zac Warner, will also be made  equity partners and part of the ownership team.

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