LAKEWOOD RANCH — Jim Poitrast has always loved birds. When he and his wife moved to the Gulf Coast decades ago, watching pelicans perched atop poles and swooping for food was one of his favorite sights.
And it was that iconic Florida image that inspired the concept for his Lakewood Ranch-based restaurant — the Lucky Pelican Bistro.
Now, the hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil gushing into the Gulf daily are threatening that view, and Poitrast is determined to do whatever he can to preserve it.
“The thought of that going away is just unconscionable,” he said.
His first effort will take place this Saturday. Called the Jambalaya Bayou Blast, the Louisiana-themed bash will raise money for rescue groups who are helping in the care and relocation of seabirds affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
For the evening, the Lucky Pelican will offer a buffet of crawfish etouffee, gumbo, fried catfish and jambalaya as well as Cajun-style beef and chicken options. The buffet will replace the bistro’s normal menu for that evening only. A children’s menu will be available.
A $15 charge for the buffet will cover food and activities costs.
“We’re asking for donations beyond that,” Poitrast said. “It’s just a party, because that’s what we do, and maybe we can do a little good, too.”
Festivities also will include live music, activities for children such as a bounce house and water slide, and even a dunk tank, at which regular customers can pay extra to see their favorite Lucky Pelican employees dunked after the dinner rush. For a $1 donation, attendees also can shoot for a “birdie for birdies” at a miniature golf hole.
Poitrast said he came up with the idea for the bash a few weeks ago after several customers asked about using the restaurant’s name as a way to strum up support for the cause. A kickoff event, he said, would give East County residents a springboard for finding ways to help.
“We thought we should get something going even before oil gets to our (shores),” Poitrast said. “If there’s no issue here, the money will stay with the organizations (here).”
Organizations such as the Wildlife Center of Venice will be represented at the bash.
“It’s a beginning step,” Poitrast said. “We have to start doing something. There’s so much out of control.”
After the event, the Lucky Pelican will continue to be a drop-off point for “wish list” items such as sheets, blankets, and medical supplies for The Wildlife Center of Venice.
Poitrast also said he is discussing other ways to get the community involved.
Contact Pam Eubanks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jambalaya Bayou Blast
WHEN: 4-9 p.m., July 17
WHERE: Lucky Pelican Bistro, 6239 Lake Osprey Drive
COST: Entry is free. Buffet dinner is $15 plus tax. Financial and supply donations for assisting seabirds will be accepted. A $20 donation earns an event T-shirt, while a $50 donation earns you a T-shirt and a Tervis Tumbler. The Lucky Pelican also is accepting supplies for relief efforts. See a list at www.wildlifecenterofvenice.org/wish_list.html.
INFORMATION: www.luckypelicanbistro.com or 907-0589
Oil spill stalls second restaurant
Lucky Pelican owners Jim and Beth Poitrast are considering opening another seafood restaurant on Lakewood Ranch Main Street adjacent to Lakewood Ranch Cinemas.
However, plans are on hold indefinitely because of the oil spill.
BP’s inability to cap the oil leaking from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig plus potential impacts to Florida’s tourism industry created a sense of uncertainty in moving forward with starting up a new island-style eatery, Jim Poitrast said.
“We’re still waiting,” he said. “I didn’t feel very confident. We already have one seafood-based restaurant.”