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Restaurant row on William Street?



of William Street

in downtown Fredericksburg is fast becoming a restaurant row.

Luigi Castiglia, whose Castiglia’s Italian restaurant has anchored the corner of William and Charles streets for 12 years, is planning to expand into his building next door by the end of July.

And Blake and Aby Bethem, who’ve owned Bistro Bethem at 309 William St. for about nine years, hope to have their second eatery, Vivify Burger Lounge at 314 William St., ready by late October or early November.

Between the two will be a newcomer to downtown, Ryan Bullock, who expects to open The Orion at 318 William St. in early August.

“I think Fredericksburg could use a restaurant row or food block,” said Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer agent Magnolia Martin. “We’re underserved. It’s exciting.”

It’s possible that the flurry of activity could attract another restaurant to that general area. Martin, who is the listing agent for Benjamin and Kitty Wafle’s recently renovated building at 415 William St., said several of the people who’ve shown an interest in leasing the ground floor would like to open an eatery there. In its previous life, that space had been The Flower Shop.

Castiglia’s expansion, the Bethems’ Vivify and Bullock’s Orion will each offer something different, which should help attract more people downtown, the owners all said.

“The more places that open on the street, the better it is for all of us,” said Aby Bethem. “What is neat is that when you’re coming downtown and go through William Street, you’ll see all this activity.”

Castiglia’s expansion will be a 20-seat bar area where customers sip wine or martinis and nibble tapas, paninis or a daily pasta special while they wait for a table in the restaurant. They’ll also be able to order off the restaurant’s menu.

Wines for the bar area will be on tap in kegs instead of being poured from bottles. Customers can order them by the glass or carafe, and wines can be ordered in flights.

“We’re working with producers in California,” Castiglia said. “We’ll be the only one in Fredericksburg to have wine on tap.”

One advantage of buying kegs is that it eliminates the cost of bottles, he said. That means he can pass on the savings to his customers.

The expansion will feature brick walls with iron accents and a tile floor by Marchetti Mosaics of Fredericksburg, which did the tile work in the restaurant. It also will have two bathrooms. Castiglia plans to add a reservation-only rooftop dining area with an outdoor kitchen and a prix fixe menu next summer.

“It will be more romantic and secluded,” he said. “There’ll be a balcony where you can watch the cars go by.”

Vivify Burger Lounge, which will be in the former location of Wegner Wildlife Gallery, will be a contemporary take on the 1950s that would send the Fonz’s head spinning.

The menu will offer burgers, shakes and fries, much as Al’s Diner did in the old “Happy Days” TV show. But the interior of the restaurant will be done in electric blue and mustard yellow, and lighting will help it metamorphose from a casual burger bar during the day to a lounge at night.

“During the daytime, the lighting will come from the exterior [windows] and from the ceiling down,” said the designer, Stacey Lampman of Spaces Design Studio LLC in Fredericksburg. “At night, the lighting is from the floor up. There will be lighting in the floor and in the bar and behind the bar. Essentially, it glows at night.”

Vivify also will take advantage of the building’s two-room layout by having a kitchen with an order window and tables and chairs on one side and a lounge area with banquette seating on the other.

There also will be seating under an awning on the sidewalk in front and in the courtyard behind the building. An exterior staircase will lead to the rooftop, where there will be a horseshoe-shaped bar and a pergola. Beer, wine and mixed drinks will be available.

“One of the things that will be different is that there will be a lot of beer in cans,” Aby Bethem said. “They do really high-end beers in cans now.”

The Orion, which is going into the former home of Network Title Inc., will be an upscale nightclub featuring sushi. It will have a modern vibe with royal blue velvet on the walls, a DJ on Thursdays through Saturdays and possibly a fog machine.

Bullock said he’d planned to include a dance floor but had to eliminate it when he discovered that he wasn’t allowed to let it take up more than an eighth of the restaurant.

“If people want to dance, we won’t stop them,” he said. “We just decided not to have a designated area and concentrate more on the lounge concept.”

The bar will serve martinis and mixed drinks, including a special martini called The Orion. The seating, some of which will come from Bullock’s now closed Tree House Lounge on State Route 3, will include leather couches and armchairs. And there will be a variety of TVs throughout the space.

“They’re not there for TV broadcasts,” Bullock said. “These are purely for certain visuals to give a spacy atmosphere.”

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407