The Hooper Avenue section of Toms River could soon feel the warm island air and dine on Caribbean-inspired food when Bahama Breeze comes to town.
“It has been approved by the town planning board,” said township planner Jay Lynch. “But the company is going through compliance resolution, which means there are still some more approvals it needs to receive in order to receive the proper permits.”
No timeline has been set for the project’s start or completion, but Lynch said it has been approved for a liquor license.
It's going to be a pad site on the Ocean County Mall property, on the southwest side jughandle by Hooper and Bay avenues, Lynch said. “They're going to redesign the parking in the immediate area of the new building. The planning board needed to determine if the site would have sufficient parking, and it does.”
Toms River will mark the fourth Bahama Breeze location within New Jersey. Currently there are locations in Wayne, Woodbridge and Cherry Hill.
Darden Restaurants owns Bahama Breeze, Red Lobster, LongHorn Steakhouse, Olive Garden, The Capital Grille, Seasons 52 and Eddie V’s. Hooper Avenue is already home to Red Lobster and Olive Garden, which are within feet of each other, and Bahama Breeze would make Darden’s third restaurant within a mile of each other in Toms River.
“As Bahama Breeze continues to grow, our real estate teams are constantly looking for sites across the country,” said Hunter Robinson, manager, media relations and communications at Bahama Breeze. However, Robinson said he could not comment on any specific plans until the project has received the necessary approvals.
Pat Burson, account executive at Ryan & Ryan PR Inc., who handles , said the mall is not releasing any information about prospective tenants, but looks forward to future projects.
The mall currently has one liquor license spot inside the mall vacant, after the abrupt departure of and , which shared a license. The Bahama Breeze license was bought from downtown restaurant Jimmy C's, which sold its license last winter.
Bahama Breeze would be a pad site built outside the mall on a section that is currently remote parking near JC Penney and Macy's. Mall events such as an outdoor carnival would have less of an area to set up, should the plans be approved.
The Bahama Breeze menu focuses on island fare such as coconut shrimp, jerk chicken and tropical drinks.
The first Bahama Breeze opened its doors in 1996 in Orlando, Fla., and now operates 24 restaurants nationally. Darden Restaurants bills itself as the nation’s largest casual dining restaurant company.
The Bahama Breeze restaurant pad would be the third pad site at the Ocean County Mall. The other two, and , are on the northwest corner of the mall on Oak and Hooper avenues.