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Oft-delayed Seaside Grill reopening now said imminent

STORY BY SAMANTHA BAITA (Week of September 14, 2023)

Good news for hungry visitors to Jaycee Park – and this time, we are assured it is for real. With a shiny new roof, a refreshed blue-and-white exterior and a dolphin mural under way on the patio, the Seaside Grill, closed for the past year and a half, could at last begin welcoming its eager fans back in just a few weeks.

Vero Beach City Manager Monte Falls said the new operator of the city-owned eatery “anticipates an opening the first week of October.”

While so many promises have been made of an imminent reopening – almost from the moment the Seaside Grill closed in April 2022 – that it has become a bit embarrassing, Falls said:  “The roof is complete, the hood system will be completed this week, and they are replacing the gas line (an issue that just arose). Final inspections will be conducted by the Building Department.”

And, Falls added with significant understatement, “the city is anxiously awaiting the grand opening!”

 The tenants,  partners Andy Studebaker and Wiley Wong as GC Ventures, hold an initial 10-year lease, and two 10-year renewal options, at a starting fixed monthly rental of $8,000. They received the keys to the popular 2,500-square-foot breakfast-and-lunch restaurant overlooking the beach in Jaycee Park in July 2022, and immediately began what they initially expected to be “more of a facelift.” 

“We at first estimated  it’d take about six weeks,” Studebaker said at the time.  “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.

That was the first postponement of the reopening date.

But other issues presented themselves which would add time and cost to the project. And then there were the challenges of getting materials on site, installed, inspected and signed off on. 

In the face of the delays, the City Council subsequently voted to forgive lease payments until the restaurant was able to open to customers and generate income once again. Councilmember Ray Neville commented at that time, “Nothing has been their fault,” and Councilmember Linda Moore added, “Let’s not forget that they’re spending their own money to fix our building.”

 The restaurant’s footprint remains virtually the same as during the 30 years Dan and Rose Culumber ran it, as will the seating capacity: 65 outside, 35 inside.  One of the most immediately obvious changes will be the absence of the concrete tables and seats on the patio. 

Significantly more comfy and colorful seating will reflect the updated restaurant’s beachy white and blue color scheme, inside and out. As in previous years, restaurant patrons will continue to have access to the city’s nearby Jaycee Park restrooms.

 A major change will be the hours of operation.  Previously open from 7 a.m. until mid-afternoon, Studebaker has said that for the first week or two, during the “very soft” opening, “it’ll be 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. We’ll see how the flow goes.”

Then when all the little wrinkles are smoothed out, the eatery plans to add a dinner menu and remain open until 9 p.m.

As GC Ventures, Studebaker and Wong intend to operate the Vero Beach business themselves, while  staff handles their several South Florida restaurants. Both grew up in the restaurant business.  “My family’s in the business. I’ve worked in restaurants since I was 14 or 15,” Studebaker said.

In recent weeks, the outgoing Studebaker has been understandably reluctant to discuss the progress of the project, but spends a lot of time on site and has joked he already knows a lot about “what former customers ordered and where they sat,” as they pause, passing by on the boardwalk, to say hello.