Musings, opinions, observations, questions, and random thoughts on island life, Fernandina Beach and more

Musings, opinions, observations, questions, and random thoughts on island life, Fernandina Beach and more

Could Brett’s Waterway Café’s Impending Watery Departure Open The Door To A City-Owned Gastronomic Catastrophe?

Downtown Fernandina’s Brett’s pier-based restaurant’s condemnation, impending deterioration, and imminent plop into the water opens a variety of opportunities that the city is currently exploring that will represent the re-enactment of an old Marx Brothers script.

Folks unfamiliar with the Brett’s issue can go to:

“We have some interesting plans for the Brett’s site.”

Commenting on the city’s future plans for the restaurant site city watchdog group Common Sense sent a note to City Manager Dale Martin, City Attorney Tammi Bach, and all the commissioners accusing them of: “…. manipulation, secrecy, lack of transparency, sweetheart dealing, lack of competition and back office dealing.” You know, the city’s routine approach of conducting its day-to-day business.

Knocke didn’t hold back adding: “The city within moments of the release of the Brett’s declaration of condemnation seeks to provide another sweetheart deal to the local tenants of Brett’s and Atlantic seafood. In his blistering letter Common Sense’s Jack Knocke listed the following reproaches and concerns:

  • Land lease for a 9,000 square foot building
  • $7.50 per square foot with no escalations or revenue share
  • 60-year term
  • NO parking requirements – like the city applies to ALL other waterfront property owners
  • Will subordinate city interests as a lessor to a mortgagee for financing construction – WHAT?
  • City will prohibit other restaurants south of current Brett’s location

The city’s dismal track record is a sure indication of even worse things to come. There is little doubt among most hereabouts that the city’s inept management team – flush with failure on everything it touches – could take a crack at running its own restaurant. Why not? It’s not their money, it’s the tax payers? They’ve failed in their attempts to run a marina, a golf course, and an airport. Why not go for a superfecta and flop as restauranteurs too?

A few creative locals and I have imagined what kind of gastronomic experience City Manager Dale Martin and his confused culinary city commissioner crew and department heads would create if that motely team attempted to open what we’ll call “Dale’s Underwater Cafe & Kitchen or the “City DUCK”.

It could feature authentic Mexican food. Since Joe Biden was elected President there is no shortage of authentic Mexicans to staff it.

Based on previous city failures the tagline for the town’s new eatery could be one of the following:

  • Sure, the local homeless shelter may have better food, but it doesn’t have a waterfront view of the smoke-belching paper mills.
  • After your first bite you’ll quickly realize how we will help you maintain your weight.
  • No janitor, bathroom or toilet deserves what will happen after you eat here.

The City DUCK could conduct a variety of clever promotions such as: “Pay your city parking ticket here and get chairs for your table.” Specials for locals can include: “Show us your city water and sewer bill and get a glass of water at half price,” or “Buy an entrée and receive a token to use our pay toilet.”

Future restaurant reviews would probably read as follows: “A table nearest the bathroom door is considered prime seating” and “Compared to City Duck the food at the Nassau County jail – City DUCK’s only local government-owned competition – is considered exquisite and they’ll even pick you up anywhere in the county and bring you there.”

“Complaint Department? We don’t need no stinkin’ complaint department.”

Like most restaurants, patrons will be expected to observe certain rules. For example, City DUCK will require customers to keep their voices down and not make any unnecessary noises to keep the decibel level to 20 or below. All entertainment will consist of mimes. Customers will be expected to bus their own tables before being seated and the overflowing dumpster at the entrance is only temporary as the current contract with the busboys didn’t turn out as well as expected. We cater, but only to consultants, outside planners, out-of-town law firms, and sycophantic media outlets. The complaint policy is simple – if you don’t like it tell somebody who cares, not us.

There will be cover charges and minimums. A table usage fee and a per person chair fee will be added to all local’s bills depending on the restaurant’s capacity at the time of the visit. Tourists and county residents living outside of the city limits are not subject to any fees, can sit wherever they want, and receive generous discounts.

Since every restaurant has specialties based on tradition, City DUCK’s themed-based specials will include huge baloney sandwiches, near beer and mock tails.

City DUCK Drinks Menu:

  • The Enterprise Fund Slushie.
  • The Building Department Bloody Mary – Must be ordered 30 days in advance using an online form submitted along with a deposit. It is not guaranteed that all ingredients will be available by the time of a reservation.
  • Pirates Rum – A utility department specialty.
  • Impact Fee Beer – This one packs a wallop. You don’t drink it, we smack you upside the head with the bottle, then pull the chair out from under you.

City DUCK House Specialties:

  • Prepared tableside.

    Businessman’s Special: Golden Goose, slaughtered and cooked tableside. Eggs are for City Duck staff use only.

  • The Chip Ross Poo-Poo Platter: Filled with items you didn’t order, don’t want, and can’t digest. Market price plus. If customers complain Commissioner Ross will personally explain why they are wrong, not only wrong, but wrong to be wrong.
  • The Martin Burger: Want fries with that? That’s an extra charge. Plus, a surcharge on the extra charge. Buns are an up-charge. There’s a fee for each condiment. You want it cooked? That’ll be extra. A mandatory tip always added for this item.
  • Mayor Mike’s Flapjacks: Flip-flopped to perfection.
  • City Duck’s Fish Platter. Wait around long enough at this restaurant and the fish will swim right to your table.
  • Bach Beans. Served lukewarm. Gas is guaranteed.
  • Len’s Mock Turtle Soup: Mock? Maybe!
  • The Top Tracer T-Bone. Only the bone. For an up-charge meat can be added. There are no beverages served and there are no restroom privileges with this order. It can only be served before sundown.
  • City DUCK’s Special Vision Plan Platter for 2095: It’ll be ready by then maybe.
  • The Online Fernandina Observer Omelet: Sugar and salt encrusted steak, eggs, cheese, bacon, sausage, potatoes, and gravy, served with an extra salty Bloody Mary. None of this is, bad for you, it’s good for you. Believe us because we said so.
  • Consultant “All You Can Eat” buffet: Open every day all year long. VIP customer Passero & Associates can always butt ahead of anyone in line.

Special Desert Item:

  • Institutional Rot: This has been a stable at City DUCK for years. Folks eventually get used to the wretched taste and stench and stop complaining. No refunds.


Tweedledee Ross and Tweedledum Martin.

A History Of Nincompoopery: Bad management involving excessive spending, lousy decision making, a lack of effective communications, and hidden agendas have been hallmarks of the Fernandina Beach City government for years and have risen to new heights under City Manager Dale Martin and the election of Chip Ross.

“Big Spender”” Martin and his sidekick Commissioner Chip “I Run This City” Ross have documented track records of controversy and accusations of public distrust and discord prior to settling in Fernandina Beach and sowing their seeds of discontent in these parts. Both left a revealing trail of negative newspaper articles detailing their bungling and bullying in their previous places of residency. From all public reports their former neighbors were delighted to see them slink out of town.

Both of these city hall guys are inept managers. Martin is a spend-aholic, mesmerized by the wealth on the island and can’t keep his hands off it. He comes from managing less affluent towns compared to Fernandina that both slapped him down for his excessive spending habits. To him Fernandina Beah is the goose….well, you know the rest.

“Lawsuit” Ross is his own worst enemy particularly with his recent personal OHPA lawsuit and numerous previous suits. One caused a Fernandina family and their special needs son to get booted out of their home and into a local hotel just before Thanksgiving costing them thousands of dollars and personal misery. That suit was judged in the family’s favor but costly to them financially and personally.

Many think a judge will rightly agree in the OHPA suit that Ross appears to be conducting city affairs on his own and that he has a history of doing this….acting as an agent of the city without authority. Presuming that he can accomplish what the city cannot…..a sort of god complex.

Ross’s trail of law suits and reported harassment of his neighbors from here to Maryland have been reported in this space previously. But as a refresher here’s a summary, including one in the Washington Post by J. Freedom du Lac, the Post’s general assignment news editor, headlined: “At the famed Tiki Bar in Southern Maryland, it’s the doctor vs. the drinkers.”

Sean Rice of The authored another one about Ross on September 22, 2006, headlined “Prominent Tiki Bar Foe Charged with Intoxicated Endangerment.”

According to these Maryland and Washington D.C. news reports Ross tried to strip a local bar in his former residence of its liquor license and had legal charges brought against him. The entire, very bizarre report of Ross’s activities can be found by going to: Washington Post article can be read in the May 28, 2011 Washington Post (At the famed Tiki Bar in Southern Maryland, it’s the … – Washington Post ).

Other than in this space not a single local area news outlet that I am aware of has ever bothered to report Ross’s or Martin’s previous public brouhahas or controversies. Why not?

As far as I can determine Martin’s antics first began going public about 11 years ago in Davison, Michigan. Following is a news item from the The Flint Journal, July 27, 2010:

“Some councilmembers had accused Martin, who was hired from the city of Linden in 2008, of lying to them, providing coy answers, being disrespectful and being more interested in promoting his personal professional resume than serving the city of Davison.”

Martin was subsequently fired by the Davison, Mich., Town Council.

On Aug. 14, 2014, as town manager of Winsted, Conn., Martin was suspended pending termination. The resolution stated: “The Board of Selectmen has lost confidence in the ability of the Town Manager to perform his duties as Town Manager, to lead the recovery from a period of failed oversight, to credibly foster economic development or maintain a collaborative and transparent dialogue with the Board of Selectmen.”

This resulted in a recall of four Selectmen, two seats were contested in a special election. The suspension was rescinded along party lines.

Martin was reinstated in Winsted by his Democrat supporters, who got enough seats on the council to block the Republicans, who wanted him gone. So now maybe we see why he has such a deep desire to tax-and-spend – typical Democrat behavior.

Council members there felt that Martin showed poor judgment in negotiating the sale of a blighted Lambert Kay factory building. The deal fell through, and town officials learned that the man brokering it was a convicted scam artist with a “documented record of long-standing fraudulent dealings.” [NBC Connecticut, Aug. 15, 2014]

The Register Citizen, reported on September 15, 2014: “Suspended Town Manager Dale Martin has been reinstated, effective Friday. No longer controlling enough votes to fire Martin later this week, the Republicans on the board have conceded the fact that Martin will remain the chief official in town. His public hearing, originally scheduled for Thursday night, has been cancelled. Selectman Candace Bouchard made the motion to reinstate Martin. When asked after the meeting if she still thinks Martin deserves to be fired, Bouchard didn’t mince words. “Of course,” she said.

“It requires five affirmative votes to oust a town manager, which the Republicans no longer have after the split ticket results of Saturday’s special election for two selectmen seats. The Democrats have supported Martin throughout the process. “We would still vote five if there were five,” Bouchard said.

Based on these reports it appears that in both cases Martin failed to be forthcoming to his governing boards….providing some, but not clear and complete, information, which led to concerns about his credibility and honesty.

It is important that Commissioners David Sturges, Bradley Bean, Len Kreger and Mike Lednovich continue to isolate the Martin & Ross duo as the Commission goes into budget season. They need to keep repeating the eminent domain scenario of why are we (city hall) taking people’s property (taxes too) without their permission?

Maybe even the local media will wake up to the fact that something fishy is going on downtown.

Everyone in city hall needs to repeatedly hear: “We don’t work for you! You work for us! We demand that you spend our money and govern Fernandina Beach with transparency, frugality, and common sense.”

If city governments had an IQ Fernandina Beach’s would be hovering around 60.


Stupidity On Public Display: How can a woman who has accomplished absolutely nothing but putting her incompetence and stupidity on public display generate so much unwarranted attention? The Democrat’s talent cupboard is bare when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is that party’s go-to media showcase gal. The media also expose the emptiness of their talent cupboard by taking this nitwit seriously and providing her an interminable flow of ink. People who dismiss her inane blather say: “Well, what do you expect, she’s just a bartender?” sell bartenders short and don’t do any of these hard working, talented men, and women any favors comparing them to a mindless moron like AOC. The Dems other favorite media stars are two more dimwits – Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Cori Bush (D-MO) who used the Fourth of July celebration to proclaim that the U.S. a terrible country. Omar said America and Israel were comparable to Hamas and the Taliban while Bush said black people weren’t free in the United States. Is there any leadership in the spineless Democrat party willing to slap these cretins down? I can’t imagine living in a district that would vote for this trio of anti-American Marxist nincompoops. Their constituents must be dumber than a barrel of hair.


A Sign Of The Times: Amelia Island is not immune to the nationwide house buying frenzy. In fact, it’s one of the epicenters of the purchasing pandemic with houses being snapped up before owners or agents even have an opportunity to plant a “For Sale” sign in the yard. It’s gotten so frenzied hereabouts that the owners of the house pictured here on Florida St. made sure that prospective buyers and aggressive realtors know that their house isn’t  on the market and to please leave them alone.

More than 20 years ago I was a member of an Atlanta-based organization that every year invited a prominent University of Georgia economist to speak to its members. At the end of his annual presentations, he answered questions. I asked him: “If you were personally going to invest in something right now what would it be? Without hesitation he said: “Real estate on the Atlantic coast from Charleston down to Key West. It’s white hot!” Three years in a row he answered my same question exactly the same way. After the second year we bought the house we currently live in on Amelia Island. Following his talk after my purchase I asked again, and he responded the same way, thereby reassuring me that we made the right decision.

The satisfaction of living on Amelia Island has been just as rewarding. It’s reassuring knowing that we made a wise investment that continues to appreciate in value even though we have no intention of selling. If we did where would we go?


Things I Wish I’d Said: “We’re living in a generation with people that would unplug your life support just to charge their cell phone.” – anonymous.


Mark Your Calendar: Local author, former U.S. Army Airborne Ranger and mercenary, and former local bakery owner, Bill Craun, will speak at the We The People gathering Monday evening, August 2 at Shuckers Restaurant beginning at 5 p.m. Bill, whose book “Working The Kill Zone” was recently released, tells a spellbinding tale of his true-to-life exploits fighting brutal terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. This is an event you do not want to miss. Seating is limited to 100. There is no cover and drinks, and food can be ordered from the regular Shuckers menu. RSVP to Deb Boelkes at 904-310-9602 or at


Ricky Robbins Jr. and the Southern Donut food truck.

Drinking Dining & Dancing: If you see a long line of police cars speeding down Fletcher or Highway 200 there’s probably not an emergency, but more likely cops with a hankering for a freshly cooked doughnut. The newly inaugurated Southern Donut Company food truck, run by its Managing Partner Ricky Robbins Jr., opened earlier this week, and based on a breakfast and doughnut sample I was offered this is going to be a highly successful venture. It’s not just doughnuts but reasonably priced (one dollar to $12) hefty breakfast servings as well. Here’s the schedule Rickey provided: The truck will be at 1476 Sadler Rd FB on Wednesday’s and Friday’s (next to Fancy Sushi)  from 7am-10am. It will also be at 463852 SR-200 Yulee (next to Tasty’s) on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7am-10am. Both of these sites will eventually be the locations of future brick and mortar Southern Donut stores. Saturday’s are “open” for public events, private parties, or special requests but the truck will be somewhere hereabouts on Saturdays with its location listed on Facebook at  It’ll be parked and closed on Sunday’s and Mondays. Last Friday Linda and I had lunch at Area 51 BBQ & Grill, at 510 South 8th Street, run by personable 4th Street Deli owner Jae Kim and his wife, Annette Biak, two of the hardest working folks on Amelia Island. This tidy, cozy place’s differentiation is in the sauces, in which meats are marinated for 24 hours and contain some 10-15 ingredients, using recipes Jae brought from his native South Korea. I had something called Bulgogi Hotpot, a

Area 51’s Bulgogi Hotpot.

delicious sizzling bowl of meats, glass noodles, etc. that was addictive. It was really, really good and came with sides of spicy kimchi, bean sprouts, cucumbers, rice and bean sprouts. I like spicy food, so Annette chopped up a special bowl of hot peppers that I dumped into the hot pot making it very spicy. It was good before I added the peppers but for me it got even better with the extra kick. I tried a Korean beer called Hite Extra Cold with my meal and it was as good as any lager I’ve quaffed. If you want something different, delicious and in an environment that screams “welcome” try Area 51, you never know what to expect!! They also have traditional and very good barbeque, both Korean and American, plus many other fascinating offerings. Their hours are Monday -Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. for lunch and dinner. They’re closed Sunday. Call ‘em  at 904/277-224. The Decades Band will perform at the Sandbar and Kitchen at Main Beach tomorrow, Saturday, July 10 beginning at 6 pm.

  • Comment (9)
  • Personally, I think the city made the right decision to hold off on the lease negotiations for Atlantic Seafood right now. With that said, to correct one thing in your article, no restaurants in the central business district or the CRA (including the waterfront) are required to provide off street parking. That is why you will notice that no other restaurants downtown have their own parking lots (with a couple of exceptions of places that chose to do so on their own). So that aspect of the lease terms was not unique in any way and would not grant any special privileges to Atlantic Seafood that other establishments do not have. The only uses that require parking in the CRA are residential and lodging, which this obviously is not.

  • Dave, this latest of yours is by far the worst yet. Rambling, nonsensical, intermittently sprinkled with some vestiges of facts, no wonder people love reading it, its right up there with the National Enquirer. Statements like “Since Joe Biden was elected President there is no shortage of authentic Mexicans to staff it.” is just such typical bigoted horse manure (I hope you are not going to censor this because I used such a term)…I have to ask: do you laugh at your own jokes in the mirror, or do you pay people to read this stuff and laugh on cue?

    On a different note, as for the house in question, it belongs to a friend of mine, and she was out of town when she heard that someone had listed her house, without her permission or knowledge and people were walking all around her property. I actually posted the signs on he behalf (and with her blessing). This craziness is getting out of hand, and trying to cram more people onto this island is going to kill the goose…but that might be too liberal of a concept for those who see a tree growing where another house can be built, as an impediment to making money.

    • Actually, Dave pays us one cent a word to read his drivel. (1/2 cent within City limits because Fernandinans are accustomed to getting less.) Why else would we egg him on? I’m going to spend my $32.69 at Tasty’s this week. You don’t read this blather for free do you?

  • The vote to stop any negotiations for a new restaurant on city property was the proper one. A 9,000 sq. ft. building would forever change the profile of the riverfront and citizens have consistently opposed such development. The City does not have a strong track record of being a good negotiator with such leases and many of the initial terms reported were beyond the pale. Unless the City is going to construct a pedestrian drawbridge across the boat ramp, the riverfront walkway is always going to have to take a route on both sides of the ramp up to Front Street, so the “requirement” to relocate Atlantic Seafood to accommodate the walkway is a red herring.

  • Mr. Lott’s assessment that the “the city does not have a strong track record of being a good negotiator with such leases” is a kind understatement. Although the City frequently uses consultants for many issues, it is curious why it relies on inhouse talent and does not employ commercial real estate attorneys to represent its interests when it comes to leasing public property. Brett’s Waterway Café is not the only City property with lease terms favorably written for lessee.

    Anyone who is appalled at the circumstances surrounding the Surfside condo collapse (questionable City governance; delays in remediation by building management and owners), should think twice about going to Brett’s. Within days of Hurricane Matthew’s destruction of the marina, Brett’s was notified about an inspection highlighting structural damage to the restaurant’s foundation. That was almost five years ago. The combination of indifference by both the City and Brett’s management to address the problem is beyond understanding.

  • Interesting how Commissioners Bean, Kreger and Sturges all supported the engineer’s report to warn the lease holder of Brett’s about the unsafe condition of the building. The lease isn’t held by Brett’s, but by a group in Jacksonville. Brett’s needs to be yelling at the lease holder group/people for not taking care of the building as required by the lease. And those 3 commissioners could most certainly fire Mr. Martin if they thought he was doing a bad job. Silly Dave!
    Hey, Dave, can you tell us about the County raising the MOBILITY FEE? What’s that about? Is the island paying more to the County again? It’s in the News Leader for a COUNTY workshop on July 19th and 26th. County is going to raise our fees MORE than the Statute allows? County raising taxes again?
    Gosh, you make up the darndest stuff! I can’t run for City Commissioner, I would violate the Sunshine Laws!

    • After an extensive review of the News Leader I found the announcement of the workshop for a mobility fee. One would think there would have been an article about it but alas there was none. I guess us mushrooms will have to go to the workshop to figure out what that is about. I am particularly interested in how the proposal accounts for this: “A mobility fee-based funding system must comply with s. 163.31801 governing impact fees. An alternative system that is not mobility fee-based shall not be applied in a manner that imposes upon new development any responsibility for funding an existing transportation deficiency as defined in paragraph (h).”

    • Hummm? Faith Ross? Wonder if there’s any relation to Chip? LOL Way to redirect concerns to the County. Bravo… However, that doesn’t change the City’s poor management and greed.

  • Thanks Dave! Really liked the Impact Beer and Chip Ross Poo-Poo Platter … laughed so hard my eyes watered 🙂


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