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Clinton's Old River House to Close

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We were in Clinton today and learned that the Old River House restaurant will close on or about February 1. This restaurant is in a beautiful location that looks out over the South Branch of the Raritan River, very near the famous Red Mill. On a nice day in the spring, summer or fall, the outdoor dining area was nearly always fully occupied for lunch and dinner.

While I always enjoyed breakfast or lunch at the Old River House, the dinner menu never appealed to me. I always thought they could do so much better. Nevertheless, I shall miss this place as it was a 'known quantity' and very much a part of the downtown Clinton scene. And did I mention the fabulous location?

It will be interesting to see whether another restaurant moves into the space. It's hard to imagine any other type of business here.

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  1. The Old River House did a decent business so I don't think it was lack of patronage that caused them to close. According to a letter published in the Hunterdon County Democrat, "The restaurant’s partners, faced with a rent increase which would have caused them to operate at loss, had no choice but to close." http://www.nj.com/hunterdon-county-de... I heard the same complaint from other tenants in Clinton, and I believe the Clinton Book Store is moving to a different store (in Clinton) for that reason. One of the few businesses in nearby High Bridge also told me it may be moving because the landlord is raising the rent - - even though another storefront in the same building has been empty for months. I must be missing something here; with all the empty real estate, why are property owners driving good business tenants away? Is it more profitable to have an empty space?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Forklaw

      If I am thinking about the same building in High Bridge, there was buzz a few months ago that the owner of the building wanted everyone out, to raze it and build some monstrous, modern thing. Naturally, this has been met with a bit of fury.

      As for The Old River House, this is indeed a huge loss. I cannot believe that the other businesses in that building are thriving, so I cannot second guess the owner's intentions, though it is the prime spot in Clinton for any restaurateur. Often, a restaurant's lease is tied to a percentage of the gross sales. Perhaps someone came to them with a better proposal? Indecent, any way you look at it.

      In this Great Recession, take a walk down Main Street in Flemington, for an eyeful of empty buildings. Flemington is literally a ghost town these days.

      1. re: pitterpatter

        I live right outside Flemington. It is indeed pretty bad downtown. Which is really a shame because it's a very nice town with a lot of charm. I hope things turn around eventually. It definitely doesn't help though that the Union Hotel closed - and that they let the boro's only liquor license get transferred out of the boro.

    2. Stopped in Clinton today for coffee and a pastry and learned that Nino's will move into the space previously occupied by the Old River House. Nino's is the Italian restaurant currently situated at the corner of East Main and Leigh Streets. Unless Nino's pulls off a miracle in their new location, Dora's on Main Street will continue to be my Italian restaurant of choice in Clinton.

      I also learned what the rent increase was, and presumably is, for this space. All I can say is that if this was going to cause the Old River House to operate at a loss, then they were operating on a very, very thin profit margin.