MAGGIE FIELD | SUN
Sandbar owner Ed Chiles is all smiles after using
heavy equipment to take the first bite out of the restaurant’s
dining room. Both the dining room and the bar are being
completely renovated, Chiles said.
ANNA MARIA – With a flip of a lever or two, Ed Chiles took a chunk of old wood, wiring and insulation out of the corner of the Sandbar restaurant Monday afternoon. It was the first step toward a comprehensive makeover of the popular beachfront eatery that began life as two army barracks buildings joined together in the 1940s.
“The die is cast, there’s no turning back,” he said with a pensive smile. “This is long in coming and soon we’ll have a new, beautiful facility to serve our customers.”
While the dining area and indoor bar get a refurbishment, the Sandbar will continue to serve meals in the partially covered deck and bar.
“We will continue to remain open until the job is done,” Chiles said.
The Sandbar restaurant has been a destination for residents and visitors alike who have enjoyed watching the surf, birds and people at the beach since 1979, when the Chiles family purchased it.
To prepare for the loss of the indoor dining area and bar, they built a second kitchen to service diners on the deck and it will continue in that role.
“We’re still open for business,” said Mark Anderson, Project Manager for the refurbishment. “You can still guess when the sun is going to set and win a bottle of champagne, we’ll still have valet parking and you can still have a wedding on the beach or in the gazebo. It will still have that bathhouse charm.”
In addition to a new dining area and bar, there will be new rest rooms accessible from the dining room. The restaurant’s seating capacity was set at 110 and Chiles said they might lose a few seats with the new rest rooms, but it will be newer and better.
Serving food on the beach has its ups and downs. While the views are magnificent, it can get a little scary when Mother Nature is on a rampage. Chiles remembered between beach renourishments when waves were splashing on the windows to the west.
“Even with that, we never had water get into the restaurant,” he said. “It has been a really well-built building.”
There was no estimate on when the job would be complete, but until then, you can enjoy the surf and a good meal from a table on the deck.
The start of the project coincided with getting approval from Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch. The last turtle nest on the beach behind the restaurant hatched last weekend and that’s when they got the go-ahead.