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Date of Issue: August 16, 2007

Bradenton Beach pier work moving at rapid pace

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The Bradenton Beach city pier project looks to be a mess, but it is nearing completion. Islander Photos: Paul Roat
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The Bradenton Beach city pier and its restaurant, left, fishing kiosk and dockmaster office is nearing completion. Islander Photos: Paul Roat
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A 210-foot-long floating dock is being added to the Bradenton Beach city pier. Islander Photos: Paul Roat

The latest estimates for a “soft” opening of the Historic Bridge Street Pier at Bradenton Beach are pegged at Sept. 2, to coincide with a merchant festival on the street.

The pier was damaged by storms in 2004, the restaurant closed, and the fishing structure later shuttered to fishers and visitors.

Work has been ongoing since December 2006 and, despite numerous change orders and price hikes for the project, it’s moving ahead with some speed of late.

A recent tour of the structure revealed that the estimated $2.2 million for one of the city’s most ambitious capital improvements is rapidly nearing completion.

The restaurant, at the foot of Bridge Street, has its sidings, windows, roof and flooring in place. Equipment - fryolators, a range hood, walk-in coolers and other restaurant necessities - have been delivered, if not installed.

The tackle shop or, as it is sometimes called the “fishing kiosk,” is complete, although lacking the bait wells and some other amenities.

Next door, the harbormaster offices are also mostly finished, although lacking furnishings.

Ditto in the lack of accoutrements is the bathhouse/rest-room area, but all are on order and should be installed and ready for final permits and occupancy by September.

The restaurant is a little different from what patrons from the past knew. Fishers now have a broad walkway to the south of structure for getting from their cars to the big fish in Anna Maria Sound, rather than the previous journey among diners on the deck.

The outdoor deck is also semi-enclosed via railings to keep restaurateurs and fishers a bit apart.

One of the newest features of the pier is a 210-foot-long floating dock just to the south of the pier. The dock has a thin layer of concrete surface, is bracketed by massive pilings and stainless-steel loops, and looks able to withstand all that Mother Nature can throw at it.

The floating dock, at about $300,000, comes complements of a state grant and is, city officials hope, a harbinger for an eventual water-taxi service for Bradenton Beach. In the meantime, it will provide an easy means for the boating public to utilize the pier facilities.

The pier restaurant, operated by Dave Russell of Rotten Ralph’s fame, promises much of the same fare as his historic Anna Maria City establishment: lots of grouper, lots of sandwiches, plus service for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Oh, and city officials have approved beer and wine sales to diners at the new restaurant, but not for take-out.

The Sept. 2 opening may be “soft” in the form of a limited menu, depending on how work goes by Sarasota-based builder Southern Cross Contracting Inc.

“We hope to at least let the pier be open to the public,” said Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale. He has been tapped as the “facilitator” on the project, a role he says he’s relished.

“Nobody thought I could do this,” he said. “I wasn’t sure I could, either, but it’s been really a kick.”

Weekly meetings have been ongoing for months with the contractor and city commissioners on updates on the project.

Although the project is significantly over its estimated budget - more than 12 percent at last count - it still promises to be a highlight for the city.