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Date of Issue: July 05, 2006

Pilings worse than expected, Harry's gets nod for pier restaurant

The good news is that a franchisee - Harry's Continental Kitchens of Longboat Key - has been named to operate the restaurant at the Bradenton Beach Historic Bridge Street Pier.

The bad news is that the pier pilings under the restaurant area are in such bad shape that they will have to be totally replaced. The deck will have to be removed, and the dilapidated structure, which had already been scheduled for demolition, taken out.

Building official Ed Mc Adam, in his role as head of the city's pier team, said repair of the concrete pilings had previously been approved to the tune of more than $124,000. However, when SteMic Marine Construction began work on the pier last month, workers found the pier pilings to be worse than expected.

About 12 pilings were scheduled to receive work originally. After inspection, 23 were deemed unsafe and in need of major work, and 44 piles in all needed repairs.

The pier was closed due to safety concerns late last month.

The new estimate for the repair of the concrete piles was then escalated to more than $160,000, Mc Adam told city commissioners.

He halted work on the project and, with the advise of pier engineer Charles Sego, determined that the old concrete piles could be removed and new wooden piles installed for about $90,000.

City commissioners agreed to proceed with new wooden piles, a new deck, and other surveys needed to determine the appropriate depth of the piles.

Despite the problems, Mc Adam assured commissioners that the pier renovations and restaurant opening would not fall behind the expected May-June 2007 deadline.

And that date is when Harry and Lynn Christensen, with son Hal as general manager, will open the new restaurant. The owners of Harry's Continental Kitchens were selected to run the city franchise. The only other bidder on the business was Kay Russell, Dave Russell and Doreen Russell, owners of Rotten Ralph's Waterfront Restaurant in Anna Maria.

The Christensens have said that “Harry's at Historic Bridge Street Pier will provide an Island state of mind through a modern, old-fashioned way. It will be an angler's retreat with pictures of old Bridge Street, large mounted fish and Caribbean soul. High-quality local seafood and fun family food with competitive prices will please the guests' palate and pocketbook.”

The franchisee will pay the city $8,500 per month. The restaurant will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. There will also be a full bar, the Christensens have said.

The city pier team weighed myriad elements ranging from ambiance to hands-on management to make its recommendation, as did the city commission.

Final negotiations with the Christensens will take place in the coming weeks, with a final contract expected to come before the city commission later in July.

Mc Adam added that state permits for the pier construction are expected shortly. State environmental regulators generally frown on new restaurants being built over the water in Florida, and place stringent requirements on such activities.

However, he said, many of the state concerns were assuaged regarding wastewater at the Bradenton Beach facility due to its rest room facilities being located on land and the city plans to double-pipe any sewer or other water lines under the pier that are above the waters of Anna Maria Sound.

And in a final pier note, city commissioners directed the city clerk's office to commence the process of securing a line of credit up to $2.2 million for all the work scheduled for the pier.

Most price estimates for the pier restaurant construction, piling and deck replacement, and addition of a dockmaster's office and facilities for the fledgling city mooring field's users are less than the sum allocated, but commissioners voiced fears that ever-spiraling construction costs could increase initial estimates.