Beer, Spirits, Oysters, Patio Dining On Tap for Downtown Fernandina

Entrepreneurs shake off Fernandina's restrictive and arbitrary impact fees as a rash of new businesses sprout up downtown

Beer, Spirits, Oysters, Patio Dining On Tap for Downtown FernandinaAuthor Dave Scott offers interesting blogs on his new site,, and this time he talks about beer, spirits, oysters, and patio dining… and they are all on tap for historic, downtown Fernandina Beach, despite town’s anti-business impact fees.

“It appears that entrepreneurs are shaking off Fernandina Beach’s restrictive and arbitrary impact fees as reports of a rash of new businesses sprouting up downtown range from a distillery and a brew bar to a raw bar and a new outdoor dining venue, all in the very near future.

This capitalistic optimism is certainly not fueled by the comatose crew of indifferent elected and full-time city officials but may instead be sparked by Circuit Court Judge Brian Davis’ ruling earlier this year that the city’s anti-business impact fees on new users are “arbitrary and irrational” and are “in violation of the law,” a ruling bungling city officials are vainly appealing to the Florida Supreme Court, another ill-advised action that will cost local citizens thousands of dollars in tax dollars on wasted attorney fees.

Following are businesses that are proceeding in spite of the city’s impotent incompetence:
-Brew Bar: The name of the brew bar at the site of the now shuttered O’Kane’s has been determined by patrons of Front Street’s Salty Pelican, when they were handed a ballot and asked to select from one of the following: Amelia Island Brew Tavern, Amelia Island Brew & Chew, Amelia Island Beer Works, Centre Street Brew Tavern, Amelia Island Bierwerks or Centre Street Beer Works. Voting ended last Monday for the name of the enterprise that will be operated by the Pelican’s T.J. Pelletier and Al Waldis and Espana’s Roberto Pestana with an opening date yet to be announced. I like Bierwerks, sort of the BMW of beer.
-Palate: The Amelia Island Omni Plantation is obviously a terrific training ground as many seasoned professionals leave that island resort and start their own area businesses and now it’s long-time Omni employee Tammy Barnes turn, as she has been busy refurbishing the closed Benito’s at 614 Centre St. to be renamed Palate and featuring downtown’s first raw bar. Ms. Barnes hopes to be open in time for Shrimp Festival with 12-year Omni veteran Chef Matthew Kennedy handling the menu’s steak and seafood offerings. I’m told that a regular bar will be open in the back area with the raw bat up front.
-Marlin & Barrel Distillery: Capitalizing on the island’s history of rum-swilling pirates, a distillery will call downtown Fernandina Beach home, settling in at 115 South 2nd St., with former Air Tran Airways executive Robert Morenc saying he’s starting with rum in his Marlin & Barrel Distillery, because of the area’s rich pirate history. Hoping to be opened in time for this year’s Florida-Georgia football game, he said he’ll be adding vodka, gin and American rye whiskey and will act as the facility’s head distiller.
-Leddy’s Porch Expansion: Ernie Saltmarsh is expanding his South 3rd St. Florida House Inn’s Leddy’s Porch facility, opening an outdoor dining area between his popular Green Turtle Tavern and the Florida House, enabling diners to kick back and enjoy the beach music on the Turtle’s porch and the offerings of Chef Marshall Sands’ Florida House kitchen, particularly his signature buttermilk fried chicken, in a beautiful courtyard atmosphere. When the Turtle porch is silent, the Florida House has installed a new sound system surrounding the dining area, with conversational music coming from speakers designed to look like the surrounding landscaping and those in charge are discussing the possibility of jazz brunches.
-Beech Street Grill: Saltmarsh is continuing his restoration activity on the Beech Street Grill facility the corner of South 8th St. and Beech St., with plans within the next few weeks to move a 1900 shotgun house at 217 S. 8th St. next to the restored Grill and he says it will replace one that burned at the restaurant site in the 1990s and it will be restored as a retail spot. He said a restaurant may well be opened on the site this summer but declined to say what it would specialize in and who was involved.”

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