Island Issues

Thursday, April 21 Is Beer Lovers Day!

Thursday, April 21 Is Beer Lovers Day!

cheers, two glass beer mugs isolated on white

If you’re a beer drinker mark Thursday, April 21 on your calendar.

The long anticipated Amelia Tavern at 318 Centre Street at the corner of South 4th Street, will open its doors to the public beginning at 4 p.m. that day, and if my sneak preview is any indication this is going to be a wildly successful establishment.

Operated by Al Waldis, T.J. Pelletier and Roberto Pestana, a personable trio that understands what the public wants in a dining and drinking emporium, this place has success written all over it. Al and T.J. run the highly successful Front Street Salty Pelican while Roberto is the owner of the always-busy Espana on South 4th Street. Roberto will run the kitchen, Al will handle the front of the house and T.J. is in charge of the beer brewing operation that includes five huge vats clearly visible through large interior windows.

While beer is obviously the featured beverage the tavern has a liquor license and the U-shaped 35-seat bar will also pour a variety of very good wines.

Designed by the Fernandina Beach architectural firm of Cotner Associates, Inc., the tavern’s 150-seat facility will employ some 40-50 people, and visitors will recognize some very familiar and fun people behind the bar and serving tables.

The Centre Street-facing entrance that once hosted O’Kane’s Irish Pub, 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.

Tables are 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. Uniquely designed high-top like community tables that will seat large groups of up to 10 are also available. A massive skylight provides a bright and airy interior atmosphere and USB ports are scattered everywhere. Four massive 70″ TVs are above the bar but this isn’t designed as a sports bar.

Roberto showed me the menu that will be available on opening day with a number of items grabbing my attention including the snacks of blue cheese stuffed fried olives and homemade spiced pork rinds. Other items designed to go well with their locally brewed beers are pretzel bites with house made bacon beer cheese and a mustard dip; Scotch eggs; a smoked pastrami poutine, a charcuterie board; candied bacon with a maple glaze, ribs, pierogies, and truffle fries. The four salads include a roasted beet offering with crumpled goat cheese and pickled red onion and salmon with red onion and capers, all sitting on a serving of mixed greens.

Soups are French onion and New England clam chowder while their burgers include two specialty half pound brisket burgers and a salmon burger. There is also grilled homemade sausage with sautéed peppers, onions and tomato coulis and a porchetta sandwich with pork belly, caramelized onions and spicy aioli. There are also a variety of sides with siracha spicy slaw, sweet potato fries and Mexican sweet corn with cohita cheese and spicy mayonnaise getting my attention.

While a variety of craft beers among others will be available on opening day, the ownership trio is still waiting for a federal government brewing license. “The city has been very helpful,” said Waldis, who has said he has been very impressed with the attention and speed of the city’s staff in helping them during the building and local licensing process.

Proprietors of other nearby bars and restaurants have told me they are anxious for the Tavern to open as they know they will benefit from the crowds that it will attract. “The more people that come downtown the more we all benefit,” said one.


A Fast Woman: Nassau County’s Economic Development Director Laura DiBella has made it three in a row by copping her third consecutive Seven Mile Bridge Run in the Florida Keys with a 43:00 time to once again take home the overall woman’s title. This classy lady does everything she tackles in a superior fashion.


Why I Don’t Go To Starbucks: No matter what your opinion of Florida governor Rick Scott he didn’t deserve the verbal abuse directed at him in a Gainesville Starbucks recently by loopy activist Carla Jennings, who publically cursed him while shouting out vulgarities along with her negative opinions of his policies. With no regard for others, including children, in a public facility this shrieking loud mouth should have been tossed out of the coffee emporium by Starbucks management. I see no difference between this woman than a drunk in a public bar who is shown the exit for causing a similar disturbance.


A Lesson I Don’t Want To Learn: Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said recently: “White people don’t know what it is like to be poor.” Well, they’ll find out pretty fast, if this loon is elected president.


Speaking of The Poor: Democratic candidates — presidential, senate , congress, etc, — all say we need to attack inequality by raising taxes on the rich and increasing the minimum wage. But despite the fact that being poor is not as enjoyable as being rich, the typical poor household living in the the poverty level or below owns a car, lives in an air conditioned house, has cable or satellite TV service, a refrigerator, a microwave, and those with children have  game systems. And 84 percent have two or three color television sets according to the Energy Information Administration. The average “poor” American has more living space that the average European. There are allegedly some 50 million people living at or below the poverty line but that statistic does not include food stamps, rent subsidies, entitlements etc. So as the Bible says: “The poor will always be with us” at least our poor have the highest living standards of any other country in the world.


A Point To Ponder: In his book “America in Retreat” Bret Stephens, foreign policy columnist for the Wall Street Journal,  asks “Did the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan impoverish the nation as Obama claimed?”  He points out that Obama spent more money in a single day — February 18, 2009 — with the signing of the $787 billion stimulus package than the  Defense Department spent in Iraq in an entire decade — $770 billion.”


A Parody To Ponder: I love parody. That’s why I have so much fun writing the Amelia Island News-Wrecker. But parody is even funnier when the people who are being parodied parody themselves and don’t realize it. Take the GMO  (genetically modified organism) labeling issue. Oh, did you know that the time of day a crop is harvested affects its nutritional value more than whether that crop was produced from GMO seeds, which hasve no impact on its nutritional value at all? Anyway, back to parody. Last summer Gwyneth Paltrow called for GMO labeling at a congressional committee hearing in Washington, D.C. In a situation that almost defies parody, here’s a movie actress playing the role of a concerned parent doing performance art about a subject in which her knowledge base is zero, “testifying” before a group of folks whose scientific and agricultural expertise may be even less than what she possesses. If this nonsense wouldn’t eventually cost the consumer money it would be side splittingly funny.


Shut Up & Move: I keep getting personal handwritten cards in the mail from a local realtor, whose handwriting resembles that of a serial killer, telling me how he enjoyed talking with me about selling my house. In the first two lengthy notes he told me how much he enjoyed meeting with me and that he will be sending me information in the future to help me in the sale process. And he did. Another personal handwritten note arrived that included a community profile, a marketing plan, etc. He says he’s “really excited” about working with me to sell my house.  Either this guy has me mixed up with someone else, is trying to convince me to sell my house using him as an agent or is up to something. If this is a sales technique it is one of the strangest I’ve ever experienced as I’ve never met this guy or ever heard of him and we have no intention of selling our house.  And I can’t think of a neighbor I’ve offended so badly that they’d go this far in hopes I’d put it on the market and move.


Even Trump Can’t Stop Trump: Nobody has figured out how to stop Donald Trump, even Donald Trump, and it appears he’s trying harder than anyone else. In about two weeks time The Donald was endorsed by the likes of David Duke and Louis Farrakhan; tweeted a Mussolini quote; dismissed a charge that his campaign manager assaulted a female reporter; and offered to pay legal fees for a supporter who sucker-punched a protestor.


Defective Defector: The hapless Atlanta Braves (0-9) who haven’t won a game as of this writing are looking more and more like the Jacksonville Jaguars of professional baseball. They learned a few days ago that their left fielder, Hector Olivera, was arrested in Washington D.C. on domestic abuse charges and suspended from playing with full salary of course….not that his anemic batting average of .211 has been of any value. The Braves obtained the 31-year-old Cuban defector from the L.A. Dodgers who paid Olivera a $28 million signing bonus, but the Braves remain responsible for his salaries from 2016 to 2020 ($32.5 million). Bad baseball, a bad actor and bad PR don’t make for happy fans. Can a defective defector be returned?


Unions Costly To Taxpayers: For many years the traditional vision of a union has been an organization composed of blue collar workers like stevedores or masons but today the typical union member is more likely to be a teacher, firefighter or healthcare worker.

Unions representing government workers are expanding while organized labor has been shedding private sector members over the past half-century according to the Associated Press.

A majority of union members today now have ties to a government entity, at the federal, state or local levels. Roughly 1-in-3 public sector workers is a union member, compared with about 1-in-15 for the private sector workforce in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall, 11.3 percent of wage and salary workers in the United States are unionized, down from a peak of 35 percent during the mid-1950s in the strong post-World War II recovery.

The largest union is the National Education Association, with 3.2 million members. It represents public school teachers, administrators and students preparing to become teachers. Next is the 2.1-million Service Employees International Union. About half its members work in the public sector.

None of this is healthy for the general public. In his book “Government Against Itself” Daniel DiSalvo presents a number of statistics showing how these public sector unions are driving up the cost of government and destabilizing the finances of many state and local governments. The chaotic public pension situation in Jacksonville and right here in Fernandina Beach are examples.

Another issue is government unions help elect those they will face across the negotiating table. A politician who has received large campaign donations from public-sector unions is much more likely to look favorable on those unions demands during negotiations. As Mr. DiSalvo says: “Wouldn’t autoworkers love to be able to “elect” the management of the car companies with whom they must collectively bargain.”


Drinking, Dining & Dancing: The Crescendo Amelia Big Bank will join with the Fernandina Beach High Jazz School this evening beginning at 6:30 in the school’s main auditorium for a fund raiser to help finance the FBHS music program, which is currently raising money for a trip to New Orleans and for new musical instruments. The FBHS Jazz Band opens the program at 7 p.m. while the 18-piece Crescendo Band follows. Coffee and desserts will be provided. Smokestack, a four-piece blues oriented band out of Jacksonville area will perform at the Green Turtle tomorrow beginning at 7 p.m. . The group’s repertoire runs from Texas and Chicago shuffles through blues, rock and even a little country. And don’t forget that this evening, like every Friday evening from 5-7, is a weekly gathering at A Taste of Wine by Steve, at 4924 First Coast Highway to sample arrivals and some of Steve’s suggestions. If you want to meet up with friends or meet some new ones before you head out for dinner or honky-tonking, then this is the place to start. Call ’em at 904/557-1506. If you have a chocolate sweet tooth, then today is a sad day as Peterbrooke in the Island Walk Shopping Center, next to Tony’s Pizzeria and the Publix on Sadler is closing its doors after a very successful run here. I’ll miss the chocolate covered popcorn, Sandy and Pat, and more as will many others.


DH - 20. Apr, 2016 -

There is another new restaurant downtown opening soon. Lechonera El Coqui’ is supposed to be authentic Puerto Rican food. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this place.

John Mansfield - 15. Apr, 2016 -

subscribe, please

Richard Troxel - 15. Apr, 2016 -

Don’t know what planet Mr.McCullen resides on,but the poor in America are so much better off than those of similar circumstances any where else in the world.Aren’t you aware of the entitlements they get.Food Stamps,Rent Subsidy Free health care ,Free cell phone and nowFree internet. And I am sure there are more,but this is enough to cause those of us that pay taxes to support these folks more than a little angst.If his conscience bothers him,he can always volunteer to pay more taxes .

Rich McCullen - 15. Apr, 2016 -

Gee, it’s a shame your blog doesn’t get wider distribution, so more people living in poverty could get the benefit of your benevolent and sensitive observations about how lucky they are! Seriously, here’s an idea for you: maybe before you publish some of this stuff you should recite it in front of a mirror, and see if you can still look yourself in the eye.

Maury Foreman - 15. Apr, 2016 -

Thanks for keeping us informed. I can’t wait to visit the new tavern.

Robert Warner - 15. Apr, 2016 -

“….A Parody To Ponder: I love parody. That’s why I have so much fun writing the Amelia Island News-Wrecker. But parody is even funnier when the people who are being parodied parody themselves and don’t realize it. …”. At least, you got that right, Dave.

Faye Tones - 15. Apr, 2016 -

I would like to subscribe please.

Laura DiBella - 15. Apr, 2016 -

Hugs to you, Dave, thank you!! Will be out of town next Thursday, be sure to have one for me!!!