March 2011


Author: David Gignilliat | Photographer: Photography by Anne

Mention “The Boardroom” and images of sterile, skyscraping conference rooms, hostile takeovers and Donald Trump’s gravity-defying mane may come to mind. Maybe in New York or Chicago, but not on Hilton Head Island.

If brothers—and co-owners—Brendan and Thomas Reilley have anything to do with it, when islanders and visitors say “Meet me at The Boardroom,” they’ll be talking about one of the area’s newest watering holes to open in the south-island’s popular “Bar-muda Triangle.”

“We wanted to make [The Boardroom] as relaxing as possible,” said Brendan, who celebrated the bar’s grand opening February 5. “We’re more of a low-key place. You can come in here and have a conversation or bring a date.”

For many years, the space was used as a private club (also called “The Boardroom”) for a group of golfers—a haven for its members to play cards, enjoy a few cocktails and swap stories about sublime double-breaking eagle putts. Eventually, that group dissolved and the space became available for a new tenant. The Reilley family, who owns the plaza and also leases retail space to the adjoining restaurants and bars, had a few options in mind for the vacancy.

“In the initial conversations, we were talking about making it another private club,” said Thomas, a recent Boston College graduate with a degree in finance. “Eventually, that [concept] evolved and we decided that we could still go upscale and give it that private or sophisticated feel.”

The completed bar oozes polish, yet still leaves room for whimsy and mischief. The decor is refined and, at the same time, comfortable. Zebra-print chairs and oversized leather couches and ottomans invite patrons to sit down, stay awhile and enjoy a drink as a group. Pop art originals (think Jimi Hendrix, Marilyn Monroe, and abstract New York cityscapes) adorn the wall, while dark wood accents merge with soft lighting to give The Boardroom a cozy, intimate feel.

In the warmer months, a new outdoor bar and freshly landscaped side entrance will offer additional seating for those looking to enjoy the warm weather or to people-watch. (On Tuesday, March 8, The Boardroom will sponsor a Mardi Gras event in conjunction with the Hilton Head Brewing Company, its closest neighbor in the sprawling outdoor-friendly plaza.)

Thomas spent some of his college years traveling in Argentina and Brazil and brought back some regional favorites. Most notable is the Brazilian caipirinha, a refreshing mixture of muddled lime wedges and refined sugar with cachaça, the distilled rum-like byproduct of fermented sugar cane juice, served over ice.

The Boardroom offers two versions of the original caipirinha, one with a Pitu cachaça and another with Leblon cachaça, an award-winning premium artisanal brand. The Boardroom then mimics the original with playful takes in its “cocarinha” (Captain Morgan, Malibu and fine sugar), the “camparinha” (with Campari) and endless versions of the “caiproska” (with flavored vodkas replacing the cachaça).

One of the popular quaffs so far has been “The Sexy Intern,” a blend of Caravella Limoncello, vanilla-flavored vodka and pomegranate juice, shaken and served in a sugar-rimmed martini glass. Also intriguing is “The Office Hottie,” a mix of Hornitos Plata (a 100-percent blue agave tequila), pineapple juice and agave nectar with dashes of lime and orange juices.

The beer list features the usual suspects as well as a few surprises—Sol (bottled in Monterrey, Mexico) and craft beers (including a few from Southern Star Brewing Company in Conroe, Texas). A diverse wine selection (with offerings by the glass from Europe, Australia and South America) rounds out The Boardroom’s indulgent drink menu.

Both Brendan and Thomas grew up in the family business (which includes Reilley’s, The Crazy Crab and Aunt Chilada’s), with Brendan eventually earning a degree from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in New York before running a fine-dining restaurant in Hawaii. Marriage, four children and a desire to return to Hilton Head brought him back into the local ownership fold, and he’s been managing at Aunt Chilada’s for the last several years.

After graduating from BC, the younger Thomas began the traditional job search, hoping to land a gig with a big bank on Wall Street or at one of the Chicago exchanges. Although he has not given up on that goal, he has kept up with old college friends and has gotten the sense that “they all seemed miserable.” Faced with an early-life career decision, one could say he traded in one boardroom for another.
“I enjoy having my days to myself. I go to the beach every day. I like to play golf, so I don’t mind working at night,” Thomas said. “[Some of my college friends] are stuck in the office from 7 in the morning until 7 at night. That’s not really my philosophy on life. I like to work to live, not live to work.”

The classic bartender duties—efficient drink-making, witty banter, aim-to-please mindset—seem to suit Thomas well.

“You meet new people every time you work [behind the bar],” he said. “I prefer it that way. I enjoy talking to people—you know, shaking hands, kissing babies,” he joked.

On a typical night, you might find Thomas working the bar with Brendan’s wife Jill, while Brendan trades his daytime bookkeeping duties at The Boardroom for evenings managing Aunt Chilada’s. At about 10 p.m., while Thomas’ evening is just heating up, it’s time for Brendan to go home, tuck the kids in and go to bed.

“Our house, generally, is pretty wild,” Brendan said. “[Jill and I] get up early in the morning, get the kids to the bus stop, and then our day starts. Seven days a week.
And that’s not a complaint.

“I grew up in it. I’m used to it,” Brendan said. “I wouldn’t want it any other way.”


The Boardroom is located at 7B-4 Greenwood Drive in the Reilley’s Plaza. The venue is open seven days a week, starting at 4 p.m. and closing at 2 a.m. Sunday-Thursday and Saturday, and 3 a.m. on Friday. For more information, call (843)290-7890.

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