Joey Ledet has only been in town six weeks, but his influence is already being felt.
Colson Hillier, Amelia River Golf Club’s director of marketing, invited me to join him and Joey at the Surf for lunch Wednesday for a friendly chat and I learned a couple of things very quickly: 1- Mr. Ledet certainly knows the restaurant business and; 2- his enthusiasm is contagious.
The 46-year-old New Orleans native was hired by Wes Sheffield as director of operations for The Amelia Island Hospitality Group (AIHG includes The Palace, Surf, Hammerhead, Dog Star, Sheffield’s, Amelia River Golf Club, etc.) in mid-May and based on my brief meeting with him, we’re going to see a lot of positive and fun activity within that organization.
Walking into the Surf at 1 pm, the first thing I noticed was a two-deep crowd surrounding the deck-top tiki bar manned by former Sandy Bottoms day-time outside bartender Artie Steinig, who was hired by Joey last week, and who hosts his traditional Breakfast Club crowd from 9 am to 5 pm every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Mr. Ledet, who has been in the hospitality business his entire working life including stints at such prestigious establishments as New Orleans’ Antoine’s, the circa 1840 restaurant renowned for its French-Creole food and impeccable service, is introducing a refreshing new look to the Fletcher Avenue Surf that included some very tasty crab-based items that he, Colson and I sampled Wednesday such as: Crab Imperial, Crab Au Gratin and a Crab Fluff, that I’m betting with become a Surf trademark item. There’s no need to explain these items folks, just go order them and enjoy. They are chock-a-block full of crab meat and the tiny hush puppies, just-right coleslaw and fries perfectly compliment the new trio. They’re not on the menu yet so ask your Surf server.
Joey also said that he plans to update the decor at the Surf with new tables as well as exploring additional new items for the menu.
While I couldn’t get him to confirm it, I’ve heard rumors about the opening once again of the BBQ restaurant behind the Fletcher Avenue and Sadler Road Hammerhead with plans for seafood as well as pit BBQ. He did say, however that this coming July 4, folks at the Hammerhead will be treated to free hot dogs.
If you have an opportunity to meet Mr. Ledet, you’ll be treated to a personable, talented individual bubbling over with enthusiasm for his new job and Amelia Island, and you’ll walk away energized and feeling good about where you live. He’s a one-man chamber of commerce and good will ambassador that both AIHG and the island are lucky to have among us.
Speaking Of Being Energized: Did you know that the cost of each empty store front in downtown Fernandina Beach is $400,100? I didn’t either until I saw a presentation by the city’s Community Development Department Director Adrienne Burke at the Tuesday morning meeting this past week of the Historic Fernandina Business Association (HFBA). The $400,100 includes lost sales, profits, payroll, bank deposits, taxes, and more and was a factor that spurred HFBA to pass a motion to support the Main Street USA Program with a $3,000 pledge on top of the City Commission’s unanimous resolution to pledge $40,000 over three years to help fill up downtown’s remaining empty storefronts.
Things I Wish I Had Said: “There are three types of baseball players: those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happened.” — Tommy Lasorda
Full Disclosure: A couple of readers of this blog have made it clear in written comments posted here while others have verbally told me they think my recent criticism of Fernandina Commissioner Johnny Miller is too harsh while others say it’s not harsh enough, but both sides say that the remarks contradict my previous support of both his political and bartending skills. As a matter of full disclosure, I worked with Johnny to help get him elected and aided in the construction of his pro-business platform. I have always admired his bartending skills and still consider him one of the best, most creative, and personable barkeeps on the island. However, during his successful 2013 campaign for the commission Johnny ran a very strong pro-business campaign and confirmed that position to me, in his literature and in public forums. In an October 2013 press release he declared: “I have heard from both concerned citizens and business people that the city is not addressing a variety of bureaucratic issues that are necessary to help the current business community grow, as well as attract new enterprises and residents. For example, I can’t count how many times I’ve heard from both business people and residents how inequitable, harmful and confusing the current method of collecting impact fees is to current and prospective businesses.” His campaign promises included a strongly worded statement promising the local business community his full support saying: “The business community doesn’t end with the downtown historic area. It extends down both 14th and 8th Streets and along Sadler and Fletcher, among other areas. It is the job of the commission to take a more proactive leadership role to aid all Fernandina’s businesses by encouraging a more coherent and efficient regulatory and permitting environment. We must never forget that employees, whether they work at Rayonier, RockTenn, the Ritz Carlton, the Omni Resorts or the city’s many smaller businesses, all have a vested interest in this community and want to see it run efficiently and prosperously.” WOW! I think that’s very clear. There’s more, but it is obvious that Johnny has abandoned the local business community, donned a Chicken Little costume and is running up and down Centre Street warning folks that the sky is falling; the ocean is doomed; the climate is warming; plastic bags, seismic testing, big oil and the local mills are out to kill us, etc. He is using his commission seat as a platform to promote a variety of his left-wing, feel-good causes ranging from banning plastic bags and seismic testing, non-existent puppy mills, and horse poop, and to promote dogs dining on restaurant patios, backyard chickens, and more. His disdain for the business community was very apparent when his was the only vote to promote a measure which would have restricted the RockTenn and Rayonier mill’s processes and their economic viability, two significant companies that provide an enormous tax base, employ hundreds of locals, contribute generously to local causes and provide collateral jobs. His poorly thought out plan to hold a press conference in front of CSX Railroad’s Jacksonville HQ didn’t sit well with those folks who now say Fernandina is one of that firm’s least favorite places to do business. All of this not only contradicts the promises he made during his campaign, but he appears to have turned anti-business with a vengeance. As the mill folks at the commission meeting said following Commissioner Miller’s anti-mill vote last week, “We won’t forget this Johnny.” In fact I think “Don’t Forget!” might make a good campaign slogan for Mr. Miller’s opponent in the next campaign if the “Chicken Little” commissioner decides to run again.
The Get A Room Department: It has been reported that at a June 8 meeting the Nassau County Commission approved Sheriff Bill Leeper’s request to raise the daily rate to house federal detainees at the Nassau County detention center to $72 from $40.10. The higher rate allows for a new agreement with the U.S. Marshal Service says the online Mary Maguire edited newspaper ncflIndependent.com. Apparently the sheriff stopped housing federal prisoners several years ago because the rates were not sufficient to cover costs, and now the higher per diem makes the agreement beneficial to the county. However, in a competitive world and in a era of public-private partnership I went online and found two motels on Highway 17 in Yulee near the county’s detention center located close to the courthouse in Yulee off William Burgess Blvd., that provide lodging for $45 and $55 per night respectively. Toss in a couple of McDonald’s Happy Meals each day and these two outfits would be more than competitive. Just put the locks on the other side of the doors.
Woods In The Weeds: Some 153 golfers competing in the U.S. Open in University Place, Washington last weekend, including many who didn’t make the cut, have something they can proudly boast about to their grandchildren even if they never play another competitive round, and that is they beat Tiger Woods. Woods shot the worst two rounds of his career and finished tied for 154th out of a 156-man field, and was sent packing after missing the cut. Duffers take notice as during his two days of shooting 80 and 76 respectively, he lost a club and topped a ball. His chances of tying Jack Nicklaus for 18 major tournament wins are beginning to look more and more remote.
Things I Don’t Get: Call me an old fuddy-duddy but I don’t get tattoos. I know a number of very pleasant and very intelligent local folks who have them and are planning on adding more, including some very attractive women and a few men who appear to me to have run out of space for additional ink. Unlike most fads, which usually come and go, tattoos just keep coming, and I have never understood why people would put pictures on their skin they’d never consider hanging on the walls of their homes. And what possesses black men to adorn their arms and bodies with tattoos that on dark skin look like something that didn’t wash off in the shower? Just asking.
More Things I Don’t Get: Apparently some restaurants seem to think that its diners want to watch the activity taking place in the kitchen, at least that was the case at a number of eateries when we lived in Atlanta, Houston, and other large cities. I can stay home and watch that as well as listen to pots and pans clanging, cooks hollering, and leave the kitchen smelling like the stuff that was cooking there. In fact a couple of up-scale very expensive restaurants in Atlanta even offer — for a special price — its guests a table right smack in the restaurant’s kitchen. I go out to get away from that. Other restaurants must think their patrons left the house so they could come to their place and cook and even supply them with gas grills on their table and a pile of raw meat and vegetables. You are supposed to pay these people to allow you to cook your meal in their restaurant? What the heck’s up with that? Banker David Hannum in his criticism of P.T. Barnum was right when he said: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
Cost Of Government: Liberals are constantly telling us that they’re the ones providing safety nets for the neediest and most vulnerable Americans; what they neglect to mention, however, is that it’s their economic programs and regulations that necessitate all those nets in the first place. For example, federal regulation and intervention cost American consumers and businesses an estimated $1.88 trillion in 2014 in lost economic productivity and higher prices, according to “Ten Thousand Commandments,” by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. If U.S. federal regulation was a country, it would be the world’s 10th largest economy, ranking behind Russia and ahead of India say the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. The best places for economic opportunity for minorities are, “neither the most liberal in their attitudes nor had the most generous welfare programs,” according to NewGeography.com. “Instead they were located primarily in regions that have experienced broad-based economic growth, have low housing costs, and limited regulation.” For African-Americans, 13 of the top 15 cities, including No. 1, Atlanta, were in the South.
Energy fact: The Bakken shale oil formation in North Dakota (named after the farmer who owned the land where it was initially discovered) has grown so fast that the state now produces more oil than OPEC member Ecuador says EnergyandCapital.com.
Sun Setting On The UK: The Britain that once boasted that the sun never set on its empire, is rapidly shrinking from the international scene as a viable world power. The Washington Post reported recently that after a 300-year-run as a world power, the British army is expected to shrink from its current 80,000 men to 50,000, the same size as the New York Police Department and its navy that once ruled the waves, operates today without a single aircraft carrier. For this once strong ally and bastion of freedom to shrink into international irrelevance is not good for America or the rest of the world.
Dave, You are such a dumb ass. If you were half a funny or smart as you think you are we would all be in trouble. Thank goodness we are SAFE as can be.
Dave, sorry your off base with what Johnny Miller is doing. You mention left wing issues, what is on the other side of that equation, right wing issues? Tell me war and big business is better than the environmental issues he is so passionate about. You are being nothing more that short sighted with your evaluation of the importance of issues such as plastic bags and climate change. You can only stick your head in the sand for so long before you have to pull it out and take a breath. All these issues are important, both with respect to local business and and the local need for some regulation ( I know that is a conservative curse word ) on local environmental issues. As far as the Rail Road goes, why do you think the crossings got repaved, I hope you really don’t think the City was the prime mover on that project. If you do please leave out the cookies for Santa this year. Why do you think the sidewalk to no where got somewhere? It was pressure from local folks, myself included and the treat of bad press my Johnny that helped to a great extent. Why is it that parking lot B has to be re-designed to allow for more space between the tracks and the parking of cars? Why didn’t the City figure out that the Rail Road needed this space to fit emergency vehicles in case of a derailment in the first place? Dave, you may feel Johnny has not fulfilled his campaign promises, that is fine and you have every right to feel that way, but please don’t knock what he has done and what he is trying to get done just because you aren’t in favor of it. Your right about folks remembering and that will determine if he gets re elected. I personally think some issues should have been handled differently by him, but I won’t for a moment knock the work he has put in in other issues.
Steve, that’s an interesting quote. However, I never said it. I have no idea who Faith Ross is. But I’m getting used to people leveling charges against me that are untrue. I’ve even been accused of verbally accosting a middle-aged lady who wants to ban seismic sounding, an incident even the seismic sounding opponent gal says never took place. Can someone please tell me how Johnny Miller has worked or is working to cut regulatory permitting and provide an alternative to impact fees, two campaign promises he made?
Glad to report that Crab Au Gratin tonight at The Surf was good…not the best. Sad to report that the service was terrible. Waitress was unsure of a the crab menu? A 45 minute wait after ordering. C’mon…$6.50 for a small glass of house wine? Will not return anytime soon. Customer service lacking, David.
Dave, Johnny Miller is the same guy he’s always been. Promoting Business?, you bet. You need to differentiate between what’s good for our economy, and fits with the changing evolution of Amelia Island. We, all of us don’t need or want Coal dust blanketing our buildings, or noxious smells. This is 2015 not 1945. As for Johnny’s fight against the use of plastic bags, there are three areas in the worlds oceans, (because of existing currents) each the size of Texas that is covered with floating debris, primarily Plastic. Now if one of those areas was around Amelia Island would that have any bearing on your opinion. Dave, the other day Faith Ross quoted you, she or someone asked you what you thought about a Coal Transfer Terminal on Amelia Island. You said ” I think it’s a great Idea, I’d invest in it, Then I’d Move” We can’t all move, and there will come a time when there will not be anyplace to move to. I don’t understand why you always label folks Liberals if there concerned about what’s going on in the Community or have an interest in Conservation. The Term Conservative
originally was to Conserve. What happened, Shouldn’t it still be an issue of all people and parties? Thanks for addressing this issue.
Like a box of chocolate, with respects to Forrest Gump, at The Surf in the past…”you never know what you’re gonna’ get.” It’s been some two years since driving by (I live a mile south) each Friday night date with the wife to frequent The Salty Pelican and/or The Crab Trap. A few others, too. Why so? The food and prices are good with fresh and local shrimp/fish served. Importantly for us the service is fast, professional and friendly. Once again we will try The Surf hoping that they have improved and meet the simple standards many “locals” desire during and after the tourist season.
I think your observations about Miller are simply the manifestation of a bureaucratic principle well established in our City government. “If you lack the courage to deal with the serious problems confronting government then create problems that you are comfortable with”. I hear we will see the same thing on the City’s dealing with the lack of development on 8th St. Expect a proposal there to be burying utility lines. Anyone owning property or developing here knows the impediments to economic progress are illegal, anti-progress impact fees, high permit fees, a destructive regulatory regime and a generally anti-business city government. Whether it’s Miller’s plastic bag or puppy mill crusades or others burying cables it’s all a senseless distraction from the real problems. I think of it like a 500 pound, diabetic, alcoholic deciding to get control of his life by requesting funds to upgrade his wardrobe.
It was Hillary who told us that it takes a village to raise young people. I think she meant we adults should provide unconditional love. Young people need some tough love too and I think your anti tattoo comments fall into that category. I rarely miss an opportunity to tell young folks that tattoos are “job killers”. Usually I close the deal by saying “no matter how much you might like graffiti you would think any graffiti artist very dumb if he graffitied his own home.
Oh, add the horse poop argument, not his either…..
I would also like to know how the mills are going to be impacted by the five proposed ammendments. I heard Johnny ask during the meeting and not one person repsonded. His work on the dogs on patios ordinance was asked of him by a business owner and supported by other businesses in town. Whether you enjoy dogs or not, they have customers who do and are very happy that our town allows it. The parking issues have also been addressed many times by Miller even though there has been a lot of nasty comments posted he has stuck to it for the benefit of the business owners who need those spots open for their customers. Your so called sit in was not that at all though you enjoy calling it that, it was a group of concerned citizens who wanted to hear from CSX why it was taking so long. Shortly after, the sidewalk was completed. Coincidence? And Dave, once again, sigh, I get tired of hashing this one out with you. He did NOT propose the chickens ordinance, I know it’s one of your favorites to harp on. Finally, he has in no way changed his view on the environment. He told you that going into the election and sticks to it to this day. If anything, he has backed off some. Before you start accusing me of doing this “just because he’s my husband” these are my own words and my own thoughts if I didn’t agree with him, trust me you would know. I think this shows his interest and commitment to our business community.
Could you please tell me how the five proposed changes in any way affect the two mills operations? To my knowledge no one has ever mentioned the mills until the management of those two mills scared their employees into thinking these changes would somehow affect their jobs. I don’t believe anyone is trying to harm the mills in any way. I listened to the mills managers. Neither one gave any specific reason as to how this would negatively affect their operations.