Snook Haven returning
A sign on the wall of the Snook Haven restaurant that’s been closed since May reads: “Snook Haven: Where cool people meet.”
Thanks to Venice Pier Group — the owner of Sharky’s on the Pier restaurant headed by Mike Pachota — Snook Haven soon will be a place to meet, eat and enjoy live entertainment again, just as it was over the last half-century, after the group’s proposal to manage the restaurant recently was chosen by Sarasota County, which owns the 2.5-acre Snook Haven Park off River Road.
“This is a very good deal for the community and all the fans of Snook Haven,” said Sarasota County spokesman Curt Preisser. “We know how popular that place is. We know that the community loves it, and we’re very happy to get this going.”
Venice Pier Group beat out two other bids for management of the restaurant. Pachota said Friday he plans to keep the eatery as-is on the outside, while his group will spend an estimated $200,000 on equipment and furniture updates on the inside over the next five years. He said he has a couple of ideas regarding the menu, but he likely will stay in tune with the Myakka River setting, featuring full-Florida fare. A backwoods-smokehouse menu also is being discussed.
“These days you have to make a menu that’s good for everybody as far as healthy items, different allergies and gluten-free diets,” Pachota said. “There will be healthy items on there, but I think the backwoods-smokehouse kind of thing will be kind of interesting.”
The Gulf Coast Banjo Society will still be a staple of the entertainment on Tuesday nights — Pachota said the county actually included that as a bid requirement. He said more performers will be lined up, but times they can play will be limited due to a noise ordinance.
On Sept. 2, the county’s Parks and Recreation department held a benefit on the property for its Adopt-a-Camper program. The event drew more than 800 people and raised about $3,000 for summer camp scholarships — even though the restaurant already had been shut down for months.
The eatery closed in May when the county terminated its 2007 contract with the restaurant’s vendor, Sunrise Sunset Concessions of Snook Haven. The concessionaire owed more than $42,000 in back rent dating to May 2011. Venice Pier Group, which also bid on Snook Haven when it was awarded to Sunrise Sunset, will not take on that debt if the contract is approved. The Sarasota County Commission will decide later on how to pursue the funds owed.
Negotiations are ongoing between the county and Venice Pier Group concerning the base rent of the property. The county confirmed Friday that Pachota has proposed a 10-year contract in which Venice Pier Group would pay the county $36,000 the first year, plus 7 percent of gross sales over $1 million. In the second year and in every subsequent year, the annual fee would be $72,000 plus the 7 percent share. The county is working on a counter-proposal, which could take as long as eight weeks. Any agreement then would need to be approved by the county commission.
Pachota said he’s hopeful to have Snook Haven open sometime before the end of the year, with a December opening most likely.
“We’re pretty excited about it,” he said. “I’ve been going there as a customer for many, many years, and besides Sharky’s, it’s one of the neatest locations around. We’re looking forward to seeing what we can do. What we like is between Sharky’s, where people want to eat at the beach, and then people who are here on vacation can go and see what the river is like. Hopefully, by cross-marketing the two, we hope to be successful in both ways.”