March 20, 2007
Sunrise for Sturgeon, Sunsets for Owner

The Virgin Sturgeon is primed to sail into the spring and summer recreation season on the Sacramento River, but a new captain will be at the helm.

After nearly three months of sprucing up and a change in ownership, the old barge reopens for business Thursday, reports longtime owner Laurie Patching, who just sold the restaurant to one of her veteran employees, Bob Riggs.

"I'm going to start the next chapter of my life," says Patching, who has owned or co-owned the Virgin Sturgeon since it first opened on the river in 1976. After it sank two years later the business moved to Broadway and was rechristened the Sturgeon II. Patching and her crew, which included Riggs, who she'd hired as a bartender at the Sturgeon II, returned to the river in 1984. Despite occasionally high and swift waters since then the barge has remained moored in its familiar spot along the Garden Highway.

Aside from the recent refurbishing, no changes in the menu or the manner of the Virgin Sturgeon is anticipated, at least initially, says Patching. The place is to be open daily for lunch and dinner, plus breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays.

In recent years, Riggs has been a manager at the Virgin Sturgeon. "Bob knows this place backwards and forward. He knows all the regular customers. It will continue on," Patching says.

"I'm going to spend more time in Costa Rica (where she has a second home), travel, drink good red wine and watch sunsets in different places," she says. "And I'm looking into trying out for (the television reality show) 'The Amazing Race,' if they have one just for seniors."

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