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The ground is broken and the walls are going up at South Beach Bar & Grille

July 6, 2023
By Marcy Shortuse

South Beach Bar & Grille co-owner Bart DeStefano still hasn’t stopped holding his breath, even though the walls are going up on the replacement building. He has had to jump through a lot of hoops to get to this point, as anyone knows who has waterfront property in Florida. But the Bowen Construction guys are out there every day now and no one has stopped them yet.

“They haven’t given us a time frame for completion yet,” DeStefano said. “I’m trying to be realistic by saying maybe February or March of next year, but they may move faster than I think. We originally hoped to be open by Christmas time.”

Bart considers himself to be lucky to not only having Braxten Bowen and his crew working on the building, but to have procured the services of renowned architect Tim Krebs. And even with these top dogs on the side of South Beach, it still took many long months to get all the permitting wrapped up. One good thing that happened, though, was that in a fortuitous twist of fate the flood zone map changes that went into effect at the end of 2022 actually helped the cause for South Beach.  

“I got lucky,” Bart said. “Everyone said I wouldn’t be able to do this, to rebuild it. But Tim told me I had every right to rebuild where I had been before.”

Bart said the layout for the new restaurant will be very similar to the old one, but the kitchen area will be a little bit more open. They will still have a screened back porch where people can sit as well, and a pergola. 

He did mention that the roof will be a bit different.

“I’m hoping if we make some changes to that, maybe we might survive the next storm,” he said with a laugh.

The restaurant burned to the ground during Hurricane Ian, after a gas explosion took place. There was, quite literally, nothing left.

In 1966 Bud Amen bought the land at the south end and built a little restaurant and bar called the Laff-a-Lott. He sold it and it became Traditions (in the 1990s), then South Beach Bar & Grille. 

It is an island icon that residents are very happy to see make a comeback. 

Mimi’s 3rd Street Cafe will remain open until South Beach is in business. 

When South Beach was the Laff-a-Lott, 1986