Beach plans

Beachfront Inn

The face of South Beach keeps changing for the better. Rooms have been renovated at the Beachfront Inn with concerts and special events continuing at the popular Inlet Grill. More attractions are popping up to make the area an ideal place to live and vacation. JOHN BIONDO PHOTO

New restaurant, bank building, condos planned for South Beach


Beaches have long been a major attraction for Fort Pierce and St. Lucie County. The lure of tropical living and ocean endeavors brings with it breathtaking additions that make those experiences all the more enjoyable. Locals and tourists have a variety of choices on both North and South Hutchinson Island.

The islands on each side of the Fort Pierce Inlet offer the best of both worlds. While the seclusion of North Beach has a laid back feel, the action on South Beach doesn’t seem to let up as new attractions for entertainment, lodging and business sprout up.

Jim Burg, owner of the Square Grouper Tiki Bar in Jupiter, has exciting plans for his new bar and restaurant on South Beach, overlooking the inlet. He hopes to have the restaurant opened by late spring or early summer. Weather problems have caused some delay. “I’m late for this season and early for next season,” Burg notes.

The new Square Grouper Tiki Bar & Restaurant in Fort Pierce will have similarities to its popular Jupiter counterpart, which opened in 2002. “If it works, don’t fix it,” Burg says in keeping with a familiar concept. “Not exactly the same, but generally the same idea.”

The full liquor bar with a food menu will cater to a 21-and-older crowd, but Burg says that if it attracts the same type of clientele that goes to Jupiter establishment, it might draw a crowd with an average age of 40. “It’s not a nightclub, but a very relaxed, easy going place.” He likens it to a “kind of Margaritaville state of mind, tropical area, old Florida.”

Patrons can escape to “a tropical island looking out over the beautiful Fort Pierce Inlet.” You could be “anywhere in the South Pacific, the Keys, Bahamas, any tropical destination you could imagine; that’s what we’re trying to do,” he explains.

“I’m a big fan of the South Pacific, the old-school tiki bar. I like that. I like that South Pacific island feel.”

Along with the long list of cocktails and special drink concoctions, the Square Grouper will have a full service kitchen that will offer fresh fish, burgers, Cuban sandwiches and other tasty items, “all kinds of delicious things.”

It will be ideal for “mature adults that come in and enjoy a great place” for a relaxed, joyful environment. The Jupiter bar is the No. 1 seller of Sailor Jerry rum in Florida and has drawn such celebrities as Kid Rock and Alan Jackson, Burg says. Victoria’s Secret even had photo shoots for its catalogs at the bar.

The Square Grouper in Fort Pierce, located at 1918 Seaway Drive, will encompass about 6,600 square feet of floor space. There will be 4,516 square feet of floor area between the two stories that will feature the kitchen, main bar and upstairs units for the owner and employees. There will be a 1,300-square-foot extension for patron seating. Customers will enjoy the sandy open space and coconut palms along with a covered stage for entertainment.

Burg hopes the locals and visitors at the South Beach addition will call it their spot to socialize and catch up on the latest news.

“I think it’s going to be a big spot just as well if not better than my Jupiter location,” he says. The people here “love Fort Pierce, love that Main Street feeling. I think they are going to continue to try to expand on that and make it an ideal place to live and work.”

He adds “I feel fortunate and lucky enough to get in there before it’s too late.”

Next door to South Beach’s Square Grouper will be a new branch of Oculina Bank, which plans to open its doors in May or June. The office will be about 2,000 square feet inside and will have drive-thru lanes, a drive-up ATM and a night depository, according to Crystal Jordan, marketing director. Normal banking services and new residential mortgage services will be available. A kiosk inside the bank will help customers understand more about online and mobile banking.

The exterior of the building will also continue that tropical feel on the beachside with a metal roof and Bahama shutters, and it will have a lighted fountain along the Seaway Drive side, a boardwalk and a small gazebo.

Jordan notes that the intention “is to bring a bit of the beach feeling onsite” with employees wearing boat shoes, slacks and golf shirts. Plans also include giving away a beach cart, or modified golf cart, with brake lights, turn signals and seatbelts after the grand opening. Oculina Bank, which has eight offices throughout the Treasure Coast, also plans to host a large BBQ at the new South Beach site.

If that’s not enough to keep South Beach residents busy, the planned, three-story Inlet Palms broke ground next to the former U.S. Coast Guard Station on Seaway Drive overlooking the inlet. There will be individual pools for six of the seven condo units, according to Kori Benton of the city’s planning department. Prices will range from $850,000 to $1.2 million with some units already pre-sold.

Other South Beach establishments have been undergoing changes, thanks to the continued popularity of the area by local residents and visitors.

The Hutchinson Island Plaza Hotel has remoded all its rooms with new carpeting and paint, according to Karen Marrone, general manager. The pool and spa outside the building also have been renovated.

Rooms have been renovated at the Beachfront Inn with additions to the menu at the connecting Inlet Grill, manager Liza Delatorre says. Concerts and special events will continue at the inn and restaurant, which received national publicity during an episode of Hotel Hell with Chef Gordon Ramsay on the Fox network. Across the street, the Royal Inn Beach Hotel has new furniture for its 23 rooms, patio and pool area, manager Terri Hart says.

Meanwhile, North Beach is still recovering from the effects of the 2004-05 hurricanes and the devastating recession. However, the area has maintained its secluded atmosphere that allows for plenty of boating, fishing, surfing and swimming. Beachgoers and water lovers enjoy the pleasantries of Sharky’s restaurant and a few shops off A1A.

Nevertheless, residents and many seasonal visitors have been waiting for development on the huge empty space that was once a popular venue along the beach for its hotel, restaurant, tiki bar and nightclub. The 11.93-acre parcel is at the intersection of North A1A and Shorewind Drive. It was once the site of the Holiday Inn and then the Radisson Hotel, which closed following the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005. The buildings were razed in 2007.

Plans are under way to redevelop the property with a resort hotel and amenities. Initial plans were for a 400-room resort by a previous developer, Heaton Cos. of Palm Beach County. The new developer, Ruffin Properties of Wichita, Kan., has gone through rezoning changes for the new resort, but a spokesperson for the company says there is nothing new as far as advancing the project. The county’s planning department is still waiting for site plans for review, according to Jeff Johnson.

Gone are a small shopping plaza along A1A and the P.V. Martin’s restaurant, once the Red Tail Hawk, up the road, which attracted dining enthusiasts from Fort Pierce and Vero Beach. New development may take some time, but it could make sections of North Beach vibrant once again.