Rod & Reel Pier manager Dave Cochran has a Christmas wish. It’s that the restaurant and bait shop, closed since Sept. 30 due to an electrical fire, could reopen by Dec. 25 to give staff and faithful patrons of the 66-year-old facility at 875 N. Shore Drive, Anna Maria, some holiday cheer.
But it’s a race against time to open for the holiday, Cochran acknowledged.
Cochran said construction crews have been working “as fast as possible to get the restaurant open,” but “every time we tear down an old wall, we seem to find further damage.”
He said he could not predict when the restaurant will reopen. “Christmas would be nice, but I just don’t know. We’re all working as fast as we can to reopen.”
Cochran said a more likely reopening date would probably be in early January.
“We just don’t know,” he said.
One of the problems with repairs has been that building codes in Florida have changed since the facility opened in 1947.
Cochran said all walls, electrical outlets and lines, support beams and insulation must meet the new code. The restaurant also has to provide restrooms for those with disabilities.
The floor plan is not changing, but Cochran believes that when the restaurant is finished it will “look like a new structure.”
City building official Bob Welch said he visits the site almost daily and agreed Cochran and the contractor are working quickly and according to code.
Cochran said he’s in almost daily contact with one or more of the 30 employees who have been out of work since the fire.
Some have received assistance from the All Island Denominations organization of Anna Maria Island churches, as well as the Roser Church Food Pantry.
A number of Anna Maria businesses have been helping All Island Denominations raise money for the pier staff.
Joan Carter of J&J Graphics, 9701 Gulf Drive in Anna Maria, has raised more than $11,000 for All Island Denominations through the sale of T-shirts she makes that say, “Established in 1947, got smoked in 2013.” The shirts take a fun poke at a menu of “charred” foods.
Carter said she donated the first 100 shirts. For the subsequent printings, she retained only the actual $2.25 cost for the T-shirts and her employees labor from the $20 sales price.
“The support has been incredible. Local residents and visitors seem to want a T-shirt to help the pier staff,” she said.
Cornelia Zanetti, president of All Island Denominations, said the outpouring of aid has been terrific.
“We’ve gotten donations from almost everywhere around the world, including Germany and Scotland,” she said.
Many of the pier employees are getting assistance for living expenses, such as utility bills, rent and medicine, she added.
“We’re happy to help as much as we can and the community support has been outstanding,” Zanetti said.
AID members include Roser Memorial Community Church, Gloria Dei Lutheran, St. Bernard Catholic Church, CrossPointe Fellowship, Episcopal Church of the Annunciation and Harvey Memorial Community Church.
Cochran said it would make a great Christmas present for the staff if they could be back to work Dec. 25, but acknowledged that it’s just his Christmas wish.
The Rod & Reel Pier is owned by Mario Schoenfelder of Berlin, Germany. His company also leases the Anna Maria City Pier, where it operates the City Pier Restaurant.
To help All Island Denominations assist islanders this season, including the staff at the Rod & Reel Pier, call 941-778-7771. AID offers help to people in need, often giving rent and utility bill assistance and directions for more aid, including help from the Roser Church Food Pantry.
J&J Graphics Screen Printing, 9701 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria, is donating to AID its proceeds minus costs for Rod & Reel T-shirt sales. The T-shirts — with puns intended — sell for $20.
For more information, call 941-778-6541.