Snook Haven to reopen
The restaurant at Snook Haven, one of the area’s most popular outdoor hangouts over the last 50 years, will reopen next month if the prospective operator gets the final seal of approval from the Sarasota County Commission Tuesday.
Venice Pier Group — the owner of Sharky’s on the Pier restaurant, headed by Mike Pachota — has been chosen over two other bids to manage the restaurant by the county, which owns the 2.5-acre Snook Haven Park off River Road.
“We are very excited to have Venice Pier Group as our new partners,” county Parks and Recreation Director Carolyn Brown said Friday. “We look forward to them operating it and we know the community is looking forward to Snook Haven Restaurant opening soon. We certainly join in their enthusiasm.”
The eatery on the Myakka River closed in May when the county terminated its 2007 contract with the restaurant’s vendor, Sunrise Sunset Concessions. 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 county commission will decide later how to recoup the money owed by Sunrise.
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 Snook Haven will feature a “backwoods smokehouse” menu with smoked ribs, chicken and fried shrimp and fish. Sandwiches and other typical lunch fare will also be available.
“It’s going to be completely different from Sharky’s,” Pachota said. “You may find that the fish and chips or shrimp and chips are similar, but we’re going to try and keep most of the flavor of Snook Haven that’s existed from the past.”
Snook Haven originally opened in 1948 as a fishing camp. The property was purchased by the county in 2006 for $2.5 million in order to protect and maintain its cultural, historical and environmental assets, and to increase public access to the waterfront.
There are also five cabins on the property. One has been turned into restrooms. Venice Pier will get use of two of them for offices and retail space.
Pachota said he is fully aware of the history of the location and is committed to preserving the area and keeping the “old Florida” feel — something that was a huge issue for the county, Brown said.
Pachota said the Gulf Coast Banjo Society will still be a staple of the entertainment on Thursday nights — he said the county actually included that as a bid requirement. He said more entertainment will be lined up once the county signs the agreement, but the times it can play will be limited due to a noise ordinance.
Brown said the concessionaire agreement is for five years and carries an option of a five-year renewal. Documents provided by Sarasota County show monthly compensation to the county in the amount of $300 for the first month, $3,000 per month for the next 11 months, and $72,000 per year for the next four years. The county will also receive an 7 percent of gross sales above $1 million per year.
Pachota said that once the contract approved, his group will have 30 days to complete its work and open Snook Haven for business. He said Friday he is optimistic that the restaurant will open in the first week of February.