When former Amelia Island Ritz-Carlton professionals Al Waldis and T.J. Pelletier met for happy hour about five years ago the ideas the two of them batted around over a few margaritas have materialized to positively alter the landscape of downtown Fernandina Beach’s bar and restaurant scene.
Al, who left the Ritz to strike out on his own, and T.J., who sold his minority share in the 8th Street South Halftime Bar and Grill, were both searching for new and more expansive opportunities.
The personable duo, who didn’t know each other during their respective Ritz tenures, immediately hit it off when they first met at Halftime and — utilizing their combined hospitality experiences — sketched out ideas for a waterfront downtown restaurant-bar, the North Front Street Salty Pelican, that has since become one of the most popular and successful on the island, and must have others kicking themselves because they didn’t pursue a similar concept on a prime piece of harbor-facing real estate that sat vacant for years.
With Pelican customers dripping off the upstairs balcony and a sometimes 45-minute to one hour wait time for a table, the pair have embarked on another downtown hospitality pursuit that will likely generate the same eager crowds, if not more, in what they have christened the Amelia Tavern at 318 Centre Street on the corner of South 4th, in what used to be O’Kane’s Irish Pub.
The duo recruited fellow restaurateur Roberto Pestana as a third partner in their new venture, with the wildly successful owner of the South 4th Street Espana restaurant in charge of the tavern’s kitchen while Al will handle the front of the house operations and T.J. acts as brewer. Folks, you’ll not meet three more personable and talented restaurateurs.
Food will match the beer atmosphere with Roberto directing the cooking crew from a very spacious kitchen and dishing up meals influenced by countries where beers play a heavy influence such as Germany, Ireland, Belgium, Poland, England and so on. I’m betting big fat specialty pretzels and a variety of sausages will be featured on a menu that will be unlike any other on the island or even close.
Al recently gave me a guided tour of this first on the island full brew pub, which I am sure will once again have other local eateries and island entrepreneurs questioning why they didn’t develop this concept, but also have them benefiting from the overflow crowds it is bound to attract, just like those do that are in the same neighborhood as the Salty Pelican.
Designed by the Fernandina Beach architectural firm of Cotner Associates, Inc., the tavern is scheduled to open in March or April in time for Shrimp Festival. The 150-seat facility will employ some 40-50 people, with room for 35 of its patrons seated around a cozy U-shaped bar, that will soon be packed with scores of regulars.
The Centre Street-facing entrance features three distinctive huge glass “garage doors” that will electronically open enabling customers to almost sit on the sidewalk, very much like a European or Greenwich Village style bistro. The rendering above shows the center door open with the two flanking it closed.
Tables will be scattered strategically around the spacious interior that features walls consisting of the building’s original exterior bricks that were salvaged, cleaned and refit to give the place an historic, cozy feel. Community tables that will seat large groups of up to 10 will also be available and a massive skylight and the glass front walls provide a bright and airy interior atmosphere where customers can actually watch as the specialty beers are brewed.
The tavern will brew eight original craft beers and feature four Jacksonville brewed ones, giving the pub a total of 12 craft taps. Folks not inclined to quaff craft brews can select from a variety of bottled beers like Bud Lite, etc. The restaurant also features a full liquor bar and an extensive wine list so folks not into beer can sip their favorite cocktail or select from a variety of wines. While sipping their beverages customers can watch Brewer T.J. as he and his crew tend the four fermenters and two vessel brew houses situated behind glass walls in the back of the tavern. There is also an upstairs milling area, that is critical to the brewing process. The viewing area will contain signs explaining the step-by-step brewing process.
Not all of the beers have been named yet and many will be seasonal, changing with the temperatures and dates. There is a possibility that the public will be invited to name some of the brews by submitting written suggestions and that others will be labeled depending on the occasion such as Shrimp Festival, Concours d’Elegance, etc.
Entertainment will also be provided featuring local musicians as well as those from Jacksonville, St. Simons and other areas.
The only thing that could hold the trio up from opening the tavern’s doors by their March or April timeframe is the federal government, which has to provide them a license to brew beer.
My suggestions don’t carry much weight as evidenced by many of the comments at the end of these weekly musings, but if the tavern trio were to ask I’d propose Tyrolean slap dancers in lederhosen, an OOOM-PAAA band, ceramic beer steins, and buxom Fräuleins in revealing drindls. But those ideas may be why I’m not in the hospitality industry.
Speaking Of the Salty Pelican: Al Waldis’ blind loyalty to the dreadful Jacksonville Jaguars football team has cost him a bet to me for the second year in a row, as not only did the Washington Redskins win more games (9) than the Jaguars (5) this year, they won the NFL East and ran up more victories that the hapless Jaguars have accumulated (8) the past two years combined. In fact the Jaguars could easily have been the team former Cincinnati Bengals and New York Jets Head Coach Bruce Coslet was describing when he said: “We can’t run. We can’t pass. We can’t stop the run. We can’t stop the pass. We can’t kick. Other than that, we’re just not a very good football team right now.” OK, OK, I shouldn’t rub it in, but as a result of the Jaguars awfulness Al will once again wear my Redskins jacket that displays the years of all five of Washington’s Super Bowl appearances and he will dress-out again during the Redskins-Green Bay Packers playoff game Sunday, January 10. The photo shows Al modeling the jacket last year. So, stop by The Pelican this Sunday shortly after 4 p.m. — earlier to get a good seat — root for the Redskins, buy lots of beer and food, and shake Al’s hand for being such a good sport. And if you don’t know them, I’ll provide the words to “Hail to the Redskins,” a song that makes liberals cringe and normal people smile.
Hold The Windmills — Blowing Air Is Abundant: Last week’s blog featuring an article about how Fernandina Beach Mayor Johnny Miller expressed public outrage on his personal Facebook page toward local gadfly Mac Morriss’ opposing viewpoints concerning wind turbines, generated a wide variety of comments on this site as well as local Facebook sites, with one site — Amelia Island Fernandina Beach Network – pulling the blog under pressure from Mayor Miller’s irate wife. What’s odd about that is the fact that it was Mr. Morriss, who is one of that site’s administrators, who originally alerted me to the issue; provided me a transcript of his confrontation with the mayor; read and approved the blog material for accuracy before I posted it; and then encouraged me to use it on the Amelia Island Fernandina Beach Network. In fact, just 45 minutes after it was posted on the site I received a message from Mr. Morriss saying: “Good job” followed by him sending me a video of a wind turbine exploding and writing: “Imagine that happening with a super wind turbine reaching 660 feet.” After it had been posted for about 24 hours Mr. Morriss sent me a Facebook message saying that Mayor Miller’s wife, Lori, had contacted the site complaining that my blog made “racist, sexist and personal attacks on people” and that it should be removed because it violated the site bylaws.” Despite the fact that her wild accusations were false and that the blog did not make racist, sexual comments, or personal attacks on anyone, it was taken down. Of all the elected officials I’ve criticized the past few years, Mr. Miller is the only one whose spouse lashes out. Mayor Miller is like the bully on the playground who, when challenged, runs home to his mother, and when you finally catch up to him is found behind the screen door, peering from around her apron strings, while she stands there glaring at you, tapping a heavy wooden soup spoon in her hand. Apparently the site’s administrators feel their contributors are not supposed to question our elected officials on their site otherwise the admins will face the wrath of the local politicos’ irate spouses and get whacked with mom’s soup ladle. When asked, Mr. Morriss suggested that other “admins” on the site, not him, made the decision to pull the blog, but it smells fishy to me that somebody at that site folded like a cheap lawn chair. After watching the Redskins’ victory over the Dallas Cowboys I stopped by the Palace Saloon Sunday and bumped into Mayor Miller and his pretty but overly-protective wife, Lori, and I wasn’t threatened with Mrs. Miller’s verbal rolling pin or bawled out by the mayor — just the opposite, as the two were relatively gracious and chatty, with Johnny only suggesting that I stop with the items about him encouraging “backyard chickens, dogs in restaurants and horses pooping on the beach” as he claims those aren’t his initiatives. Fair enough, but darn they are so much fun I’ll have to find somewhere else to hang that city silliness. Mrs. Miller didn’t dispute her wildly false accusations and Johnny didn’t deny his extreme environmental positions on fracking, plastic bags, solar, windmill, seismic air gun or wind turbines. And based on this whole silly episode it’s obvious we don’t really need windmills with all the hot air that’s blowing around on this island.
Valdosta Or Kabul? How easy is it for a couple of Afghan servicemen, unfamiliar with the U.S. and its customs and who speak with accents, to disappear into the south Georgia countryside? Apparently it’s not a problem as two Afghanistan servicemen who were undergoing maintenance training at Moody Air Force Base just northeast of Valdosta have been missing from their posts and haven’t been seen or heard from since December 4.
When their aircraft maintenance class graduated December 18 — Mirwais Kohistani and Shirzad Rohullah — were not among those awarded diplomas and their visas have now been cancelled says the Department of Homeland Security.
A December 18 news update reported that the Department of Homeland Security took over the search efforts, but just what is this duo up to and why is it taking so long to find them? Did they meet a couple of local gals who are hiding them? After experiencing the “bright lights” of Valdosta did they decide that this rural south Georgia town was far more attractive than the war-torn medieval hell-hole where they were destined to return? Did they get lost in the Okefenokee Swamp? Did they land jobs at Valdosta’s Smok’n Pig BBQ? Are they planning on opening a falafel stand? Or, are they just up to no-good? Once found it’ll be interesting to hear where they were, what they expected to do and how they managed to hide so long.
Nobody Here But Us Chickens Department: Based on written and broadcast news reports earlier this week folks could have concluded that the 14 people massacred at the San Bernardino, CA, Inland Relief Center could easily have been the victims of space aliens or an elderly couple from a nearby senior citizen facility. As I walked through our den last Sunday I paused to listen as National Public Radio — a station that Linda had tuned in to — was broadcasting the news with a report saying that the San Bernardino center, where 14 people were killed by a “married couple”, had reopened. The Monday, January 4, Florida Times-Union was almost as bad running a one-quarter page Associated Press article on the same topic on page A-7 and not until the very end of the lengthy piece was there a mention of the cause of the killings that weakly proclaimed: “……the FBI says were motivated by radical Islamic beliefs.” What? Who’s writing these “news” reports, Obama’s White House communications staff? I’m not a Donald Trump fan, but after listening to and reading this crap I can certainly understand the vein of rage he’s tapped into with a fed-up and angry American public.
“I love it – bet your bottom dollar you’ll lose the blues in Chicago, Chicago:” The song lyrics don’t say it but you might lose a lot more than the blues under the current mayor. How bad is the foul-mouthed former Obama chief-of-staff and current mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel? So awful that he’s making even loopy liberal New York Mayor Bill De Blasio look good. Emmanuel was forced into an unprecedented runoff before winning a second term last spring. In early December his approval rating was 18 percent. And protestors, even the disgusting black Democrat Party lackey Al Sharpton, want him to resign for the city’s withholding of video in the case of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager killed by a police officer in 2014. Oh, and gang violence is at an all time high and the city’s finances are a total wreck. Other than that……..
Happy Birthday To Me? My pharmacist asked me my birthday again yesterday. I don’t know her very well, but I’m pretty sure she’s planning on getting me something.
I am very excited about all of the new restaurants coming to the island, joining the fabulous ones already here. For folks that venture across the bridge to Jacksonville, and want to experience the garage door/bar concept, stop by M-Shack (Town Center, Atlantic Beach and Riverside locations). Three former Ritz Carlton chefs, Matthew and David Medure, and Steven Schaefer, offer a variety of great burgers that are made from grass fed beef, as well as craft beers and adult shakes. I, for one am hoping they will consider putting one of their “shacks” in Fernandina soon!
I’m a Capricorn, too. That explains a lot.
Hi Dave – another good blog – well almost!
However – although I’m sure your therapist normally grades your weekly blog therapy fairly positively, I think this week she/he might be somewhat less enthusiastic.
As the city’s unpaid journalist “gadfly” (Merriam Webster – “someone who annoys people by being very critical”), you amaze me by including Mac Morriss among your equals by referring to him as a gadfly. Dave – you have no equal in that area and you do yourself and Mac a total disservice by bracketing the two of you together.
As regards the administrators decision to delete you, it sounds like a majority democratic decision was made (right or wrong) – regardless of hurt egos.
Please let us know how your therapist feels about this.
Just one more reason to not live in the city limits of Fernandina Beach. Maybe the good citizens of the city should ask for mental exams for potential commissioners before they run for office. But, then where would you get the material for your blog.
The highlight of any day is reading your posts!
Informative for all we 35 plus year veterans of Fernandina Beach. The many changes we’ve seen over the years are now enlightened by your honest comments and yes Fernandina’s hot air is very old (just never spoken of in prior years).
Best of Luck to the “Amelia Tavern”. Thank you, David Scott