- August 10, 2016
At 61 years old, Ed Chiles is ready to stop building.
In the last decade, the restaurateur and developer revitalized an Anna Maria Island business district with the Pine Avenue restoration project and completed multimillion-dollar renovations at the Sandbar Restaurant on Anna Maria and the Beach House Restaurant on Bradenton Beach. The Waterline Marina Resort & Beach Club, in which Chiles was a partner in development, is slated to open on Holmes Beach this year.
Now, after five years and five applications, Chiles will undertake his last major redevelopment project at Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant & Pub on Longboat Key. The Chiles Group will spend about $2 million on adding a second story office and storage space, expand the kitchen by 37% and redo the interior.
Last week, the Planning & Zoning Board unanimously approved a site plan amendment and special exception allowing the work, which also includes reducing indoor seating for retail space, and expand seating under the covered porch area from 54 to 90 seats. The plans also add an additional eight seats under the trees.
“The waterfront view, under the trees — it's whimsical,” Chiles said.
The larger kitchen will allow Chef George Quattromani to expand the restaurant’s offerings and do more special tasting tasting menus. For example, when the new kitchen debuts next season, Quattromani could offer oysters with mignonette sauce with two other cold dishes, then three hot dishes, such as citrus grits with fish, along with squash blossom from Chiles’ farm.
“You’ll get six looks and they’ll just knock your socks off,” Chiles said.
Architect Barron Schimberg, who worked with Chiles on renovations the other restaurants, has created plans for a water tower feature along with the second story and other changes. But diners shouldn’t expect a different feeling when they walk through the restaurant.
“We wanted to keep it as Old Florida as possible,” Schimberg said.
In 2013, Chiles proposed renovating the historic Rufus P. Jordan House to include space for weddings and small events. Residents feared the project would produce large crowds, changing the character of their neighborhood.
As a veteran of building on Manatee County's barrier island, Chiles says he is used to pushback from residents who may not always support commercial activity in their neighborhood, although at the Planning & Zoning Board meeting Monday, there were no complaints about the project.
“There are folks who will be against everything, and they will do their best to put obstacles in your path,” Chiles said. “And if you don't have a certain fortitude, you won't get through the process. I think it teaches me patience and humility.”
He recalls a quote from his father, the late Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles, about business.
“He said, ‘Son, if you're ever going to try to do something really important, you're going to have to go down into the pit’,” Chiles said. “There were sometimes here when I was so far down in the pit I didn’t ever know if I was going to get out.”
Chiles withdrew that plan and pursued another to add a second story with outdoor dining that included a request for 11 additional seats to bring the restaurant’s seating up to 180. He eventually declined to pursue more seating and was approved to move some indoor seating to a new second story.
But when he stood on the roof of Mar Vista earlier this year, he decided the view wasn’t good enough to justify second-story dining, and changed his development plans to their current form.
Chiles’ aim is to bring the restaurant up to shape so they can last another 25 years, as he has with the Beach House and Sandbar.
“In the scope of time you don’t own anything — you’re dust,” Chiles said. “So we want to be good stewards of these properties.”