Bubba Gump Shrimp is newest catch for harbor Restaurant inspired by 'Forrest Gump' to open at former Power Plant


July 10, 1998|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., a fast-growing, 2-year-old theme restaurant chain inspired by a hit movie, will open its first East Coast location this year in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

The joint venture between Paramount Pictures and California-based Rusty Pelican Restaurants Inc., based on Paramount's Oscar-winning 1994 "Forrest Gump," will join the Hard Rock Cafe, ESPN Zone and the Barnes & Noble book and music emporium at the newly converted former Power Plant entertainment complex.

The chain, licensed by Paramount, opened its first location two years ago on historic Cannery Row in Monterey, Calif., following with sites at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, Maui, Hawaii, and the Navy Pier in Chicago. They serve an average of 1,500 diners a day.

In a departure from the other sites, the $3 million Baltimore restaurant will be designed like a working shrimp boat, replicating the vessel depicted in the film when Gump gets into the shrimping business to fulfill the lifelong dream of his dead Army buddy, Bubba.

"It's a little bit of Hollywood," said Scott Barnett, Bubba Gump president and chief executive officer, who presented his plans yesterday to the city's Architectural Review Board. "The atmosphere inside these restaurants is very gregarious and festive. The accent is on family fun and seafood."

Besides taking orders for entrees such as "Bucket o' Boat Trash," Gump waiters fire off Forrest Gump trivia questions. A video of the movie, which won six Oscars, runs continuously. Gumpisms are scrawled on varnished tabletops, and memorabilia -- from costumes to shoes to ping pong paddles -- fill the place.

Along with crab cakes, steaks and sandwiches, there will be plenty of shrimp. Diners will find Alabama Shrimp Spaghetti and Shrimpers Net Catch, a bucket of steamed, spiced shrimp, among other choices, mostly for $7 to $16.

"We offer shrimp, not as many as Bubba says in the movie, but we certainly have a lot," Barnett said.

The 8,000-square-foot restaurant, which would be built on a pier off Pier 4 just south of Hard Rock's permanent floating dining pier, would seat 185 in an enclosed first-floor dining room and 50 on an outdoor upper deck.

In the past, the chain has typically converted existing buildings.

But the Power Plant's developer, the Cordish Co., "had that kind of barge planned for a restaurant, and that made sense for us," said Barnett, whose company is leasing the space for the new pier.

The chain also plans openings this year in New Orleans and Miami, and expects to open six more restaurants next year.

For Baltimore, the chain is the latest "themed" retail use at the former Power Plant complex, which relies heavily on interactive entertainment.

"What I'm trying to create here is a complete experience, and one of the things you get here is a family dining experience on the water," said David S. Cordish, Cordish Co. president. "Baltimore is known for its water. Now you can be on this working barge and enjoy seafood. There's not a place in the Inner Harbor you can do that."

The Gump chain, which is applying for final building permits, expects to open in Baltimore this year, but Barnett would not be more specific.

Pub Date: 7/10/98

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