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Seaside Grill at Jaycee Park to reopen in a few weeks

STORY BY SAMANTHA ROHLFING BAITA (Week of September 1, 2022)

A refreshed Seaside Grill is expected to finally open in a few weeks, under new management, after a six-figure renovation and with extended hours.

The popular breakfast and lunch restaurant overlooking the beach in Vero’s Jaycee Park has been closed since April 22 when longtime operators Dan and Rose Culumber decided “18 hours a day, seven days a week for 30 years” was enough.

Locals who’ve been awaiting the next iteration of the beloved eatery will appreciate the familiar look and feel, as the place exudes the same easy, sand-in-your-shoes ambiance.

One major change will be the hours of operation, previously open from 7 a.m. to mid-afternoon.  As the city looked ahead to the next lessee, City Manager Monte Falls had mentioned “we’d like to see (it stay open) maybe later in the evening, maybe for a light meal,” adding that would be “well within” the city code parameters.

For the first week or two during the soft opening, hours will be 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., then hours could be extended to 9 p.m., depending upon demand.

The City of Vero Beach received four bids to take over the restaurant and chose business partners Andy Studebaker and Wylie Wong and their company, GC Ventures, awarding an initial 10-year lease, plus two 10-year renewal options, at a starting fixed monthly rental of $8,000.

Both Studebaker and Wong grew up in the restaurant business. “I’ve worked in restaurants since I was 14 or 15,” Studebaker said.

As GC Ventures, the pair has operated several successful businesses, currently including The Nest Eatery at Osprey Point in Boca Raton and the Okeechobee Grill in West Palm Beach.    With staff able to handle their other ventures day-to-day, Wong and Studebaker plan to operate the Seaside Grill themselves.

Last week Studebaker took a break from interior renovations to discuss the project with Vero Beach 32963, talking over the intermittent whir of power tools as his crew continued work in the newly equipped kitchen.  

Seated on the covered south patio, Studebaker waved as beachgoers called to him, asking how the work was progressing, already comfortable with the pleasant, outgoing young man, and eager for the re-opening of the Seaside Grill they were afraid they had lost.

Studebaker said he already knew a lot about “what former customers ordered and where they sat” from conversations with locals.

Work has been underway, he said, since the day he and Wong received the keys in early July.  “We decided to keep the name. It’s iconic,” he said.

As to the re-do, “we at first estimated it’d take about six weeks; now it looks like 11, as we found more we needed/wanted to do,” which, he added, is pretty normal for this kind of project. Studebaker expects cost of the renovation will exceed $100,000 when final figures come in.

The restaurant’s 2,500-square-foot footprint remains virtually the same, as will the seating capacity: 65 outside, 35 inside. One of the most obvious changes will be the absence of the concrete tables and seats on the patio.

“The city was great. They helped us move them out,” Studebaker said. 

More comfortable and colorful seating will reflect the updated restaurant’s nautical white-and-blue color scheme, inside and out, the changes referred to by Studebaker as more of “a facelift.”

As in previous years, restaurant patrons will continue to have access to the city’s nearby Jaycee Park restrooms.

All the kitchen equipment is being replaced, and everything is being done with local businesses and contractors. Studebaker says Falls and the city have been a huge help during the process.

Former Seaside Grill operator Dan Culumber also shared priceless information from his years of experience.  “He’s been terrific, helping us out along the way,” Studebaker said.