2017 will be a boon year for the bar and restaurant aficionados on Amelia Island with seven new restaurants and bars planning on opening and six others being refurbished under new ownership or management.
Of the new ones, one of the most fascinating might be the smallest and guaranteed to be packed with Cheers-like locals — PJD’s Beer & Wine Garden — the brainchild of colorful and perpetually pajama-clad local character, entrepreneur and Amelia River Cruises tour boat captain, Pajamadave Voorhees.
This new cozy 12 South 2nd Street venue will be sandwiched between Pajamadave’s Pajama Life shop on the north and Ricky Pigg’s gourmet Joe’s 2nd Street Bistro as its south side next door neighbor, and tucked away in what is now a hair salon.
The design of the beer and wine garden will give the cozy hideaway a European bistro flavor while blending in snuggly with the late 1890s architectural style that dominates the downtown district.
Local attorney, beer brewing authority and Pajamadave fiancé, Alexandra (Zan) Maddox, is instrumental in the planning and beer selection, which will include a dozen brews on tap such as what Ms. Maddox calls the “traditional crap” of Bud Light, Miller Lite, and Michelob Ultra, plus her selection of some of the finest craft beers available such as porters, stouts, Belgians (Stella, etc.) and more. There will also be a wide selection of bottled beers including cellar temperature (52 degrees Fahrenheit) Fullers in bottles to satisfy the local British expatriate community. PJD’s may also possibly be the first area establishment to provide growlers, containers that enable beer lovers to take their favorite draught brews home, providing the new pub is able to acquire the appropriate permit. There will also be a selection of wines, including sparkling wine and an Italian Proseco on tap. As an aside, the quirky PJ Dave is obviously doing something right, to be blessed with a beautiful, buxom, blonde, beer-brewing barrister for a fiancé. Go figure!
Since the pub doesn’t have a kitchen, food will consist of the old-fashioned bar staples that I remember seeing in saloons when I was much younger including jars of picked eggs and picked sausages, pretzels, popcorn, and hot dogs rotating continuously on an old-fashioned spit. Pickled pig’s knuckles may also be offered if there are others out there besides me who enjoy them. TVs will be available for football, baseball and NASCAR . If there was ever to be a local “Cheers” this will be it.
Dave and Zan will appear before the Historical District Council with their proposal January 19 and if all goes as hoped they are aiming for an April opening.
The duo is taking a creative approach to $6,360 worth of impact fees they’ll be strong-armed for by Public Works Director John Mandrick by conducting a “Kickstarter” (www.kickstarter.com) campaign February 1 to aid in covering the $318 per seat extortion for the 20 seats (seven at the bar with the rest at high-top tables on the patio) with a personalized engraved plaque on the back of the seat, an invitation to the opening day party with food and beer, a t-shirt, and a pint glass. Music at the opening will be provided by popular locals Sean McCarthy, Woody Mullis and Hot Shot Carter, a not-to-miss event.
To contact them about the Kickstarter program email Zan at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by the Pajama Life store at 12 South 2nd St.
Other openings this year include;
Lagniappe Restaurant: Brian and Melanie Grimley, who own and operate Lulu’s at the Thompson House on South 7th Street downtown, will open Lagniappe (a Cajun word meaning a little something extra) in mid to late May that features a huge kitchen enabling Chef Brian to generously and creatively exercise his New Orleans and Charleston style of cuisine that was so popular at Lulu’s. The brand new building, adjacent to the Harris-Teeter grocery store on First Coast Highway, will also feature a full liquor bar and 151 seats inside with an outside patio and a separate 50-seat private dining area. The Grimleys say they plan to be open seven days a week for lunch and dinner with a brunch on Sunday. Lulu’s is currently on the market and will stay open until it is sold they say.
Pogo’s: Another southern coastal cuisine influenced restaurant is scheduled to open this year at a date to be announced on the south side at 1408 Lewis St. just off the First Coast Highway, the location of the former Gourmet Gourmet and GG’s Bistro, this one under the ownership of Dr. Robert Hogan, who also directs the downtown Tavern. It will feature a theme of the late Walt Kelly’s Pogo cartoon strip but other than that not much more information is available until management finishes wading through piles of government bureaucracy.
801 Kitchen & Bar: This past Wednesday the third resurrection of the former Beach Street Bar & Grill — now 801 Kitchen & Bar — opened as a partnership between building owner and landlord Ernie Saltmarsh and restaurateur Tim Seyda, who also operates the island’s south side Bar Zin, the Italian eatery Cucina South and retail wine store, A Taste of Wine. The kitchen is run by Chef Brett Henry of Connecticut (Cheesecake Factory and Waterman’s Grill in Portsmouth) while the front end is managed by Earl Scarberry. The 200 seat facility has been totally renovated since its former occupant shuttered it last spring and features an 18-seat bar, comfy arm chairs, attractive art work and a crackling fireplace. Menu selections range from a wide variety of very reasonably priced starters (two shrimp tacos ($10), ribs and grits ($13) steamed mussels ($13) and cornmeal crusted oysters ($13) to main courses of shrimp jambalaya ($21), pan seared scallops ($29) and something called an “Old Town” fish fry ($18), among others. And they boast an 801 Hamburger on a brioche bun with fries for just $12…try to find a better burger deal anywhere. There is a selection of salads, but I’ll opt for the very tasty and generous bowl of $7 shrimp chowder each and every time. The prices are right, the food excellent and the service at the bar and table side great, a winning combination. Oh, the upstairs that hosted popular piano man John Springer for 21 years is not yet open, but I am told by a very reliable source that Mr. Springer may be returning, but that he will continue to perform at Centre Street’s Alley Cat every Thursday and Saturday evening (6:30 -9:30pm) no matter what. The new eatery is open 5-10 p.m. daily except Mondays when it is closed. Call ’em at 904/775-5909.
Sadler Ranch: This is the next step in the 14,000 square-foot former Journey Church complex at the corner of Sadler and South 14th Street being orchestrated by the Bill Childers-Eric Deady duo that made its debut last year with Locals Cocktail Lounge. They anticipate Sadler Ranch as being “the hottest country bar on the Florida-Georgia line.” It will consist of more than “7,000 square-feet of “pure rockin’ country with a real wood dance floor to back it up,” says Childers. The interior will sport a corral-like dance floor, observation balconies overlooking it, and a stage. In addition to local and regional performers and DJ’s, Childers says Sadler Ranch will feature national acts, something no other venue on the island can boast. The 400-person capacity Ranch will also provide darts, horseshoes, ping pong, etc. much of it on an outdoor patio. It’s obvious Childers has visited country-western venues such as Fort Worth’s Billy Bob’s, Houston’s Mickey Gilley’s and others where he cherry picked some of their better ideas. This next to Locals section is expected to open this spring, possibly late March, and so far the only things missing are a rodeo arena and hitching posts, but who knows….they aren’t finished yet.
Salt Life: A 5,400 square-foot, multi-level Main Beach restaurant will dominate the Main Beach landscape when it opens later this year, or at latest early 2018. The eatery, which has locations in St. Augustine and Jacksonville, will have parking for 80 and take up an acre of property where a water park and go-kart track used to be. It will boast 2,000 indoor square-feet on its first level and 3,400 square-feet on the outside in the first and second levels.
Sandy Bottoms (RIP); The Sandbar & Kitchen, Sandplot or Sandlife: After 20 years of ownership Claude Hartley will be turning the keys of the 53-year-old (1964) Sandy Bottoms over to new owners Michelle Seder and Kevin Dooner who will operate the eatery and bar under one of three names they have registered with the state. The iconic beachfront location, which is closer to the ocean than any other bar or restaurant on Florida’s east coast and that actually serves drinks on its beach property tables, will be closed for at least two months for renovations that may include an upstairs bar and patio, turning the downstairs patio bar around to face the water, menu changes, and more.
Down Under: Ernie Saltmarsh, who has rescued and revived the Florida House, the Green Turtle and 801 Bar & Kitchen aka Beech Street Bar & Grill, will bring the Down Under — located under the Shave Bridge — back to life with an opening set for April, after being set back by the ravishes of Hurricane Matthew. There will be 200 seats under roof not counting the spacious deck and pavilion. Menus are being decided but this will once again be a wildly popular spot for locals, tourists and boaters who can dock and listen to live music, eat and drink. I wonder if the county has plans to do something about the lousy condition of the road leading to it and its neighbor the VFW post?
Decantery: The former North 2nd Street home of the Dog Star Tavern will become the Decantery, a wine and cheese emporium operated by the Sheffield’s Amelia Hospitality Group. It’ll offer patrons a place to sip upscale wines, sample a variety of cheeses and even take some home or to a local hotel or B&B.
North 2nd Street Boutique Hotel: There is a lot of work to be done before this opens but there are plans for an 81-room North 2nd Street boutique hotel with a restaurant, bar and its own parking garage, to be built by North Carolina businessman Ronald McCauley, who also owns the downtown Hampton Inn & Suites. Mr. McCauley has been a terrific corporate neighbor and bends over backwards to accommodate local desires and I expect his new facility will be a welcome downtown addition.
Wine Bar & Cafe: Local realtor Phil Griffin, Amelia Coastal Realty, had the 100-year-old building moved off the lot at the downtown corner of Ash St. and South 3rd street rather than have it torn down to build a wine cafe and that is all I know about this coming establishment, except that construction work has started.
Movie Theater: Wine, beer, hot dogs, burgers and more will be offered from what I hear about the new seven-screen movie theater to be opened where the old Amelia 7 was on South 14th Street that will feature large leather reclining seats among other niceties once construction is complete this coming spring.
If anybody can fill in any of the blanks or correct me on any of the above please contact me at email@example.com.
A Boy Named Sue – Not! T.J. and Amanda Pelletier, who are expecting their first child in late February, had a sonogram but asked the doctor not to reveal the sex of their baby to them because they don’t want to know until the child arrives late next month. However, to cover all bases they’ve selected names for a boy and girl, with the male child’s moniker being Brady Liam to satisfy the strong allegiance that Salty Pelican co-owner T.J. has to the New England Patriots and their star quarterback, Tom Brady. If Mrs. Pelletier gives birth to a girl, the child’s name will be Emma June, a name that rolls off the tongue like a twangy Nashville-inspired ballad. It appears that selecting a favored athlete’s name for children is becoming trendy as Fernandina Beach Mayor Robin Lentz and her husband Toby, both Atlanta Braves fanatics, have children named Avery and Maddux, both the handles of prominent former Braves’ pitchers, Steve and Greg respectively. The Lentz and Pelletier children will one day be very grateful that their parents weren’t infatuated with Green Bay Packer safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, whose first and last names are guaranteed to provoke more than one playground kerfuffle.
Speaking of the Salty Pelican: For the third straight year Salty Pelican co-owner Al Waldis will waltz through his packed establishment for almost four hours sporting my Washington Redskins jacket during the Pittsburgh Steelers-Kansas City Chiefs playoff game Sunday, January 15 beginning at 1:05 p.m. Good sport Al once again wagered me that the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars would win more regular season games than the Washington Redskins, and as a result he’ll wear the burgundy and gold during an NFL playoff game and later in the year buy my lunch. In the three years that we’ve conducted this friendly wager the Jaguars have won a total of 11 games and the Redskins 21, with the closest race to the bottom being 2014 when the Jaguars won three and the Redskins four. Despite his team’s miserable three-year performance the personable but unrealistically optimistic Mr. Waldis has opted to continue the wager for a fourth year. By the end of that season Pelican patrons will think Al owns that handsome coat. Hail to the Redskins!
Another Reason I Like Living Here: You know you live in an interesting community when a friend and local retiree who lives on a boat at the Tiger Point Marina posts this on Facebook: “I normally get up by 6:30 am….have 3-6 beers….should be fine for my 8 am dental appointment….probably be the least drunk person in the building.”
Buy Go & More: The Buy Go “gourmet bodega” owned by Randy Bowman and Michael Smith will begin hosting monthly wine tasting the first Thursday of each month with the first one planned February 1 from 5-7 pm. The 626 South 8th Street location at the northeast corner of Gum Street will also feature “A Taste of Italy”, a wine and food sampling on Saturday, Feb 11th, 5 pm till 8pm. The cost is $5, but folks attending will receive a $5 credit off their total purchase. Some 10 Wines from Italy will be featured and customers can also sample Forrelli Italian Food Products, and Limonsetto (Wine Cocktail). Call ’em at 904/310-9766.
City Commission Meeting Hijacked: A special session of the Fernandina Beach City Commission this past Tuesday, January 10, to discuss a variety of downtown issues ranging from the marina and parking to waterfront front improvements and opening Alachua Street was hijacked by 28 “Get off my lawn you little bastards!” speakers who unanimously ranted against closing Centre Street. Of the 28 just three were downtown business owners and only one actually had a business on Centre Street. One downtown businessman who did not speak whispered to me: “I don’t understand this as cars driving up and down Centre Street are worthless while pedestrians walking up and down the street are money in the bank.” During the end of the session Mayor Robin Lentz was forced to gavel the proceedings closed as audience members began obnoxiously booing her during her comment period. “You brought out the teacher in me,” said the feisty educator as she slammed the gavel down and declared the session over. I really like our new mayor.