Olde Fish House Marina to expand
The Olde Fish House Marina received a unanimous vote at the end of April from the Lee County Board of County Commissioners to expand the restaurant.
“Over the past three years we have tried to give back to the community. This will allow us to give back even more,” Lisa Dence said.
The three investors behind the project are Armando Montelongo, Adam Sachs and Chris Sanders.
“They are very excited,” she said of the commissioner’s vote.
Dence said their ultimate goal is to continue their concept mission “provide fresh local seafood from our docks to your table” through keeping as much of the Old Florida feel to the building.
“We are not looking to take anything away from what we currently have,” she said. “We want it to be a fun atmosphere.”
The Olde Fish House will have more than 200 seats, 85 of which will be inside under air. The commission’s approval also includes a full liquor bar with music outdoors until 7 p.m. Dence said after 7 p.m. the music will be brought inside.
She said they are in the process of doing a third traffic study and they hired a civil engineer to work on the County Development Order that covers such information as what utilities will be needed, where the rain runoff will go and different landscape options.
By June 1, Dence said their civil engineer will submit the Lee County Development Order and their engineering company will submit the final plans for the property to Lee County.
In either June or July a groundbreaking ceremony has tentatively been set with a five to six month build out. During that ceremony a time capsule with pictures depicting the history of the Olde Fish House will be buried.
“We are hoping by season to have the doors open,” Dence said.
The plan is to keep the Olde Fish House open during the renovation process. She said starting the first week of June the fish house will close on Mondays to allow their contractors more time to get things done. Tuesday through Sunday, regular hours will resume.
The progress of the Olde Fish House will be updated on Twitter and Facebook.
With the expansion of the restaurant, a new menu will also be presented once the project is completed. Dence said they are bringing in a consulting chef that will work alongside the chef at the Olde Fish House.
Dence purchased the property in February 2012 with her husband Darrell. They filed for a special exception in August 2012 that granted them outdoor seating at the Olde Fish House Marina.
Since then, they have been working on rezoning the property for multi-use zoning, so they could offer a full-service restaurant with a bar. The property was zoned as special exception and industrial marine, which did not allow those uses.
The first hearing with the hearing examiner was held in January 2014. Two traffic studies were completed to show if the rezoning would increase the amount of traffic on the island.
Through this process, Dence said some of the neighbors of the Olde Fish House were not happy and retained an attorney because of music.
March of last year the hearings were completed and the hearing examiner provided her decision. Dence said she came back with a recommendation that was not specific.
“We went to the Lee County Board of County Commission in September and told them we would like to go back to the examiner and come to more of a compromise,” she said.
In January of this year, those same neighbors who were concerned about the music attended the hearing without an attorney. Dence said at that meeting they were able to show the examiner that they could provide adequate parking for the amount of seats. She said they also changed the direction of the music, featuring more bluegrass sounds on their own sound system that they purchased.
“We have more control over the sound,” Dence said.
During the meeting, she said there was an open forum for the public to speak before the hearing examiner. Dence recalled approximately 30 people in attendance, eight to 10 who were opposed.
“That meeting was the turning point for us,” she said. “At that meeting we were able to speak with the neighbors and let them know all we were looking for was a compromise. We want to work together with them and not against them and find a happy medium.”
At the end of the meeting, a few of those neighbors switched sides, no longer speaking against the Olde Fish House.