PEABODY — Whenever Michael Clukey stood outside during renovations on his new restaurant, passing motorists would shout out: “When are you opening?” He would yell back: “Soon!” This went on for months until Clukey and his wife, Lillian Chalifour, finally opened Mike & Lill’s Black Sheep Pub & Grill at 5 Central St. last week.
Local officials and business leaders say they are excited to see a new full-service family restaurant in a key commercial space just outside Peabody Square.
“This type of establishment symbolizes our revitalization effort and what we hope to attract to our downtown,” Mayor Ted Bettencourt said. “It’s an important location; it’s very visible.”
For more than two years, since the Fire Bull closed in August 2011, the storefront was boarded up with “For Sale” signs in the windows. The first signs of life — interior renovations — came shortly after the city granted Clukey and Chalifour a full liquor license in December.
Meanwhile, local developer Norman Lee purchased the entire building in December for $1.29 million. He plans to renovate two floors of residential units above the restaurant. He has purchased and renovated several buildings in the downtown recently, including 11 Main St., which houses Congressman John Tierney’s local offices.
Lee did not return a phone call for comment by deadline.
Yesterday, Bettencourt snipped the ribbon on the new eatery with the owners, city officials and members of the Peabody Area Chamber of Commerce. Everyone was then invited inside for a special sampling from a diverse menu, which ranged from shrimp avocado pizza to crab cakes and Caesar salad.
“There’s a prep kitchen downstairs,” Clukey said, grinning. “That’s where I live.” He prepares everything from the steak tips to soups and dressings, while Chalifour handles the front end of the business. Their description of the menu is “American fare with ethnic twists.” Mexican-style dishes, Irish, Greek, Portuguese — “It’s all over the board,” Clukey said.