More than three years in the making, the Cowford Chophouse is set to open next week.
The 5,876-square-foot steakhouse, at the corner of Bay and Ocean streets in The Elbow entertainment district downtown, is housed in the two-story, century-old Bostwick Building, which underwent significant renovations.
The opening Thursday will be a victory for owner Jacques Klempf, who endured Historic Preservation Commission meetings, City Council sessions, courthouse hearings and construction delays.
Cowford Chophouse LLC poured millions into the renovations, though spokeswoman Natalie DeYoung said Klempf would not disclose the final cost. The largest of the multiple building permits for the project was for $6.4 million for the buildout. An earlier permit for the roof and foundation was $3.2 million. The city provided a $500,000 grant and a $250,000 loan in 2014.
Construction was delayed last year when Klempf changed contractors.
“When I purchased this building in 2014, I had a vision for a restaurant that would reflect Northeast Florida’s history, cuisine and culture,” Klempf said in a statement. “On behalf of the entire Cowford Chophouse team, I’d like to thank the Jacksonville community for its tremendous support as we’ve worked to restore this building and prepare it for a new chapter in downtown’s history.”
The Bostwick Building came close to being demolished before the city went to court to obtain possession of it. The city then sold it to Klempf, who has complained that JEA’s underground utility equipment posed a risk to its foundation.
DeYoung said the renovation has resolved the major foundation problems that existed when Klempf bought the building. The foundation is fine now, but Klempf, working with an engineering firm, is concerned that the foundation “could be compromised over time,” DeYoung said.
Cowford will be the second high-end steakhouse to open in downtown in the past five months. Morton’s The Steakhouse opened in June in the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront. Closed for more than a month after Hurricane Irma flooded downtown, it reopened Tuesday.
Cowford Chophouse chef Ian Lynch created a menu that features prime steaks, seafood and made-from-scratch sides. The menu will be updated regularly to highlight seasonal ingredients and new recipes. The bar menu features wine, cocktails and bottled and draft beer.
Design Cooperative was the lead architect and designer for the Cowford Chophouse, which was designed in the Renaissance Revival style. The building has historic arched windows, exterior bricks, metal cornice and restored 300-year-old heart of pine lumber used throughout the restaurant.