Waterfront restaurants stay afloat during Hurricane Sally, mostly

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

Some have served up gumbo, while others have shucked oysters and offered up shrimp po'boys and more, but the one thing they all have in common is the privilege to do it on the waterfront of Destin with a determination to keep going even during and after a hurricane.

Harbor Docks Restaurant, located on U.S. Highway 98 on the Destin harbor, has been serving locals and visitors alike for more than 40 years. And they hardly missed a beat during Hurricane Sally.

"We lost lunch on Wednesday and opened back up by 4 o'clock Wednesday evening," said Eddie Morgan, owner of Harbor Docks. 

Harbor Docks signage was knocked down by Hurricane Sally.

"We stayed open through dinner on Tuesday," Morgan added, noting it was a bit slow as Hurricane Sally was bearing down on the coast just to the west of Destin.

But even with a 9 p.m. curfew in place on Wednesday, Harbor Docks opened its doors at 4 p.m. and by 6 o'clock they had a two-hour waiting list. At that point, Morgan said they stopped taking new customers.

This couple from Memphis, Tennessee, were already out enjoying some waterfront dining for lunch at Harbor Docks on Friday.

"We got everybody out of here by 8:30 p.m.," he said.

Morgan recalled even during Hurricane Michael in 2018, which hit to the east of Destin, Harbor Docks only closed for lunch the day the storm hit, but were reopened for dinner as well.

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"That's what we do. We've always had the reputation of being the last to close and the first to reopen. And we pretty much held true to that this year," Morgan said.

As far as damage goes, they lost their sign out front and some damage to the dock on the east end of the property, but nothing that can't be fixed.

"The water came up just to the deck level," he said, noting that if it had risen another two or three inches they might have had flooding inside.

"We escaped that, just barely," he said. "There were a couple of times where it sounded like the roof was coming off, but it never did."

Morgan stayed at the restaurant during the hurricane along with a handful of the fishermen that have boats docked behind the restaurant.

"They were down here watching their boats and I stayed and helped them where I could and just kept an eye on everything," he said.

But as of around noon Friday, Morgan said, "We're up and running now, like nothing happened."

The Boathouse Oyster Bar, located on the harbor in Destin just to the east of East Pass Marina, has been shucking oysters and more for a little more than 30 years.

And just like Harbor Docks, Hurricane Sally didn't really slow them down.

"We stayed open so people had a place to go, especially when the power went out," said Missy Schofield, owner of the Boathouse.

The Boathouse never lost power, even though water started to flood the parking lot.

Missy and her husband, Capt. Chris Schofield, stayed on his charter boat, No Alibi, at Fishing Fleet Marina Tuesday evening.

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Clarissa Strickengloss of the Boathouse Oyster Bar waits on a customer Friday afternoon.

But when she realized they had power at the Boathouse they opened it up for those down on the docks.

"We tried to stay open so that people who were here would have a place to grab something to eat or drink," said Clarissa Strickengloss, bartender at the Boathouse. "We weren't really serving food, but we would whip something up for them if they were hungry.

"Missy (Schofield) didn't make us open, she asked us if we wanted to go ... and everybody was like we're ready," Strickengloss said.

It was business back to normal at the Boathouse Oyster Bar on Destin harbor Friday at noon.

"This is a village, this is a community," Strickengloss said. "All these people that are down here right now are family. You can get a drink anywhere, it's not about getting a drink. It's about getting to relate to everyone else and how you had to fight through the weather. ... It's about seeing people and knowing everyone is safe."

Strickengloss described the Boathouse as a "little base camp" where everybody checks in and takes care of one another.

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Although they were never technically closed a full day, Schofield said they were closed when Hurricane Sally came ashore.

"We were closed during the actual landfall," she said, noting they had no damage to the Boathouse, other than water about a foot deep in spots in the parking lot.

Missy Schofield of the Boathouse Oyster Bar poses for a few photographs after Hurricane Sally blew through.

"There was no standing water at anytime inside the building itself," Schofield said, noting the bar sits about two feet higher.

Dewey Destin Seafood Restaurant, also known as Dewey's on the Bay, didn't fare quite as well. 

Parker Destin of Dewey Destin's said they are still assessing the damage done to the waterfront restaurant due to Hurricane Sally.

Now in it's 19th year on Choctawhatchee Bay just to the north of the Marler Bridge in Destin, Dewey's suffered some damage due to the pounding rain and wind from Hurricane Sally.

"This one caught us by surprise ... I don't think anyone was left with any idea of how it was going to affect everybody," said Parker Destin on Friday morning as they worked to clean up around the bay-front restaurant.

All the forecasts were off on this one, Destin said.

Dewey Destin Seafood Restaurant had at least 8 inches of water inside due to the torrential downpour from Hurricane Sally.

He explained that Destin has gone through category 3 hurricanes in the past, but they have moved in and out fairly quickly.

"This was a good storm, and it sat on us for two days, forever," Destin said. "That's really the big difference, was how long you were subjected to high water and winds ... that's what really tore us up.

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"We had a category 2 that just sat on us and had more time to pile up this water on us," he added.

At one point, Destin posted a picture of himself in the restaurant standing in almost knee deep water on Facebook.

"It was as high as it was during Hurricane Ivan," he said, noting during Ivan it reached about 2-feet.

This time it got up to about eight inches, but then the wind turned and the water stayed inside for about 12 hours.

When the wind turned, "it did a number on us," Destin said.

As for damage to the restaurant, Destin said most of the super structure of the docks and pilings is OK.

"We're missing slat boards, which can be replaced pretty quickly ... and the floors we've got that replaced," he said Friday morning. "We've got some equipment damage and some issues with the longer dock.

"The real question is how much of the electrical was affected? How much of the equipment has to be replaced, because that actually determines the timeline of when you can reopen," he added.

Nevertheless he said, "We're optimistic. Maybe a week, but it could be longer. We're still assessing."

Right now they are just trying to pull it all back together.

"This is survivable. 2020 has been one hell of a year, but everybody is taking it across the chin," he said. "We'll get through this one for sure and be stronger on the other side. We've just got to look out for each other."