Local restauranteur Gus Koutoufaris and business partner Steve Meyers announced Friday that they plan to re-open the vacant, 60-year-old Milford institution, possibly as early as late March.
“I think it’s going to be great to have the diner open again,” said Koutoufaris, a longtime Milford resident who previously owned the Colony Inn in Milford, the Country Skillet in Harrington and the Magnolia Family Restaurant. “I’ve been in this town for 40 years and I know what people here like, and that’s good food – and plenty of it – at a reasonable price.”
The Milford Diner has been closed since Oct. 7, following the murder of former owner Micheal Gklotsos, who also owned the Hollywood Diner in Dover.
The 59-year-old was strangled inside his home in what police have described as a home invasion robbery. Three Pennsylvania residents – a 20-year-old man, a 23-year-old woman and a 16-year-old girl – are awaiting trial in that case.
Despite the five month hiatus, a half-dozen potential customers stopped by the diner Friday only to discover the cars in the parking lot were there for a press conference organized by the city’s economic development office to announce the impending reopening.
“I think that just shows that the Milford Diner is a landmark and people are going to be very excited to find out it’s opening back up,” said Meyers, a Harrington resident who also owns the Monkey’s Truck in Ocean City, Md.
The new owners said the menu will continue to offer diner fare, with an emphasis on daily specials including Italian and Greek options. The diner also will feature baked goods prepared on the premises.
However, Koutoufaris and Meyers said they do not plan to seek a liquor license held by the previous owners.
“The only liquor we’ll be selling is root beer,” said Koutoufaris, a Dover High School graduate who moved to this country from Greece in 1969.
Koutoufaris and Meyers said they anticipate hiring 40 to 45 full- and part-time employees, including seven to eight cooks, not including Koutoufaris, who will cook as well as manage the diner’s day-to-day operations.
The diner initially will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., although Koutoufaris said he would like to add hours as business allows.
“I’d like to stay open as long as possible,” he said. “I’m not sure we’ll go to 24 hours but I’d like to add an hour here or there and stay open later on Friday and Saturday nights, maybe starting in the spring.”
At the moment, however, Koutoufaris and Meyers said they’re concentrating on fixing up the diner for its eventual grand re-opening.
Those renovations will include re-upholstered booths, additional seating, new flooring, a renovated kitchen and the addition of wireless internet access.
Slaughter Beach resident Frank Draper, one of four partners who owned the diner from the late 1970s until its sale to Gklotsos in 2011, said he’s excited to see the longtime Milford eatery reopen.
“It’s been a shame not to see it up and running,” he said. “It’s got a lot of history and I know we were able to make a good living out of it.”
City Manager Richard Carmean said he believes having the diner open for business again will be a positive development for the entire town.
“Because of its location here at the entrance to town, it’s really not a place you want to have sitting empty likes this,” he said. “Gus is known here and the restaurants he’s owned or managed have been known for their good food. I think that will help him bring business back, and I think we’re all really excited to see this place look alive again.”