Private, members-only restaurant hopes to bring business back to Trenton

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The owner of a new private, membership-only restaurant and social club says that he wants to bring business back to Trenton.

Owner Eric Poe says that he wants The Lobby Club to make a name for itself as the after-hours watering hole for powerful people who work in the capital city.

"We need to bring more commerce into this city. And to reinvigorate that city, you have to have people sticking around past 5 p.m.,” Poe says.

The restaurant – set to open in April – is located just a few blocks away from the New Jersey State House, where state lawmakers make decisions that impact the entire state on a daily basis.

"Twenty years ago, there was a huge exodus of popular restaurants in this area and it’s a shame because ever since then there's been a deficit,” says Lobby Club manager Tara Burns.

Poe says that he hopes his club will help to revitalize Trenton.

"Whether you like it or not, you have to do business in Trenton. You have to testify in Trenton, you have to pass bills in Trenton,” says Poe.

Poe also is the head of Cure Auto Insurance. He says that he had the idea for the restaurant through his business philosophy.

“Just looking at what niche you have and try to capitalize on the niche,” he says.

Meant to be a retreat after a day of legislating, lobbying or legal work, the Lobby Club will rely on membership dues in addition to food and drink sales. It will only be open Monday through Friday, and will feature a swipe card entry matched with a computer system that catalogs members’ favorite meal and drinks.

"Anybody that's a local resident in Trenton can be a member here. Anybody that's a local business person can be a member here,” Poe says. “We just want to make sure that we can support what would arguably be the highest peak times for a restaurant, which would be a Friday and Saturday night."

What is now the parking lot across the street from the Trenton Train Station used to be the location of Pete Lorenzo’s steakhouse before it was knocked down in 2009. For decades, the steakhouse was where deals got done after hours over cigars, fine wine and steaks. It's an atmosphere and clientele the Lobby Club hopes to recapture.

"I remember what it was and how politicians were in the back, so it kind of reminded me a little bit of a speakeasy. So, I wanted to do this twist in the menu of having something special for special guests,” says Lobby Club chef Dave Newnam.

"I guess a modern-day Lorenzo's maybe. Someplace where you can actually spend two to three hours with people and actually talk and enjoy a nice meal,” says Poe.

Poe says that he hopes that the Lobby Club will be the first step of confidence being brought to Trenton.

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