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Anchor Bar headed to Darien Lake

The newest attraction to hit Darien Lake isn’t a roller coaster or water slide – it’s an Anchor Bar restaurant.

But if park CEO Bob Montgomery’s predictions are correct, the park’s Canadian visitors will find it just as thrilling.

“The addition of Anchor Bar will be news up there,” Montgomery said. “It’s a brand Western New Yorkers really identify with, but it’s also a destination for Canadians, so it’s a perfect fit.”

The number of Canadian visitors to Darien Lake increased 20 percent last year and makes up a third of the park’s business. Locally, the park pulls visitors from within a two-hour-drive radius, but it has a broader reach into Ontario, drawing visitors beyond northern Toronto.

The 4,000-square-foot restaurant will open with the park’s regular season May 11.

The menu will be slightly more limited than the original restaurant’s but will have identical prices.

The restaurant will be nestled within a newly renovated Waterfront Boardwalk area, themed to invoke lakeside resorts of the 1950s, amid a newly renovated carousel and Ferris wheel. It’s part of $5.5 million in upgrades that include a new Blast Off ride and an upgraded Ignite the Night laser light and dancing water show.

Last year, Darien Lake added a Tim Hortons franchise, another brand popular with locals and Canadians. The park has also increased and improved its overnight accommodations to cater to Canadians, who tend toward extended stays.

“We’re looking at how to position ourselves to appeal to both our core market and our Canadian market,” Montgomery said.

Darien Lake, located on Route 77 in Darien Center, just off the Thruway at the Pembroke exit, will own and operate the Anchor Bar franchise and sell Anchor Bar sauces and T-shirts in its gift shops.

The original Anchor Bar has a strong Canadian clientele. Up to 40 percent of its customers come from north of the border.

In fact, its other two franchised locations rely heavily on Canadian traffic: One is in Hamilton, Ont., the other is at Buffalo Niagara International Airport, where more than a third of travelers are Canadian.

Anchor Bar is planning to open a fourth franchise in the Burlington, Ont., area within a year. It is also in talks with a party in Las Vegas interested in opening franchises in casinos there and elsewhere, and with potential franchisees in California, Texas, New York City and the Carolinas, according to Anchor Bar spokesman Mark Dempsey.

The restaurant has robust retail distribution for its Anchor Bar wing sauces, which are sold online and in 4,000 supermarkets across the country.

It also does decent business overnighting cooked wings to fans around the country, shipping roughly 5,000 orders during the week of the Super Bowl.