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'Deal with what you’ve got': owner of new eatery shakes off challenges

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The owner of a new riverside bar and restaurant is focused on growing the business, despite facing a raft of challenges during its first few weeks.

Steve Musico is the owner of River View Rooftop, a new eatery overlooking the bridge across the Maroochy River at Bli Bli.

He is also the owner of Confessions Bar and Eatery at Mooloolaba, and for three years before that owned One Up Bar (where Pavilion Mooloolaba now is).

The new restaurant, in the Riverside Centre complex at Bli Bli, offers modern Australian dining with an Italian twist.

“What I’ve done is taken a lot of my grandma’s recipes and brought them in here,” said Mr Musico, who moved to the Coast from Melbourne about 10 years ago.

“We’re not an Italian restaurant, we’re a restaurant with Italian flavours.

“Everything’s made in-house: arancini, meatballs, pizza dough, all the dressings. We try to make as much as we can in here, because we want that authentic taste.

The view from the eatery over the Maroochy River.

“From all the feedback so far it’s been really good.”

But it’s not been smooth sailing since the eatery opened last month. The business has been affected by lane closures on the bridge during ongoing repair works; the new Bli Bli Hotel is due to open nearby next week; and a 12-year-old boy tragically died after an incident outside the complex on Father’s Day.

Mr Musico is philosophical about the challenges.

“While there are issues with the bridge and business issues with things like the tavern opening, if you’re focusing on the negatives that’s all you’re going to get,” he said.

“There’s already too much negativity in the world and there’s just not enough brain space for it. You’ve just got to put a positive spin on everything.

“If it works, great, if it doesn’t then I’ll just change it to something else.”

“Everything that’s happening was in the pipeline to happen anyway. All you can do is, realistically, to deal with what you’ve got.”

The eatery is opposite the busy Bli Bli shopping centre.

Mr Musico said revamping the space, which was home to another eatery, took two months.

“It took a little while but I didn’t really want to rush it, because it’s too good an opportunity to just slap something together,” he said.

It employs 15 staff members, with “90 per cent” teenagers recruited from local schools.

“The team that we’ve got in here is very, very good,” Mr Musico said.

He said the imminent opening of the Bli Bli Hotel was a “necessary evil” and could have a silver lining for his business.

“It’s going to bring a lot more people down this way,” he said.

“I think it will take a few customers away for a little bit but if we’re doing the right thing – it’s just another competitor but at a larger scale.

“The one thing we have that they don’t is the view.

“It is what it is and you’ve just got to stay in your own lane.”

He said he was hopeful the bridge work would be completed in time for the busy festive season.

“The good thing with this is, we’ve only got to wear the bridge closure for, say, a month – I know it’s probably going to go over, because that’s what happens – but in saying that we’ve got a lot of functions booked in for November because we are coming into the Christmas period and stuff like that. What we would potentially lose we will gain from there,” he said.

The fit-out of the space took about two months.

“From a bridge perspective, I’m presuming that is something that has needed to be done for a long time and if it’s going to keep the community safe then you’ve just got to do it.

“The only thing that could have been done better (with the bridge work) is around the communication. We knew that one lane on the bridge would close and all that sort of stuff, but on the day and leading up to it we weren’t sure if customers were going to be able to turn right (directly into the complex), so we were flying blind.

“I’d say the first three days was a bit of an issue just with everybody not knowing what was going on, but now that everyone’s aware of it and everyone knows you can turn right, it allows customers to come in. We’re still down – because I know what happened last month compared to this month – but it was expected.

“One of the things I said to them, ‘if I yell and scream, are you going to stop the bridge from closing?’ The answer’s no.

“So if that’s the case I’m more than happy to help wherever they need, but in return let’s look at an option of keeping that right turn there, instead of closing it off when the bridge is done. It’s more about working together.”

Mr Musico said he’d been blown away by the reception he’d received from the community.

“The locals are cool, they’re so welcoming. It’s so different having a restaurant here in Bli Bli to Mooloolaba, because there we’re dealing with tourists,” he said.

“I just thought it was great opportunity to showcase some of my traditional food without being an Italian restaurant, and I just wanted to give that to the locals.”

For opening hours and menus visit River View Rooftop.

One of Mr Musico’s neighbouring businesses has started a petition to improve access to the Riverside Centre once all lanes of the bridge reopen, by making the temporary right turning lane permanent. View the petition here

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