MADEIRA BEACH — More than a year after a citywide referendum to save the 1930s-era log cabin, known as the Snack Shack, city officials are seeking proposals to reopen the building to the public.
"The building is locked up and vacant. It is my feeling that we need to do something with it," City Manager W.D. Higginbotham Jr. told the City Commission earlier this month.
For months, the commission avoided making a decision about the Snack Shack, fearing it would prompt a potentially expensive lawsuit. At one point, it appeared the building might be moved to the city's southern beach park near John's Pass.
That idea was quashed when Higginbotham said preliminary inquiries indicated such a move would cost at least $200,000.
Higginbotham said he plans to solicit "letters of interest" from outside groups or businesses who might want to operate the building and generate revenue for the city to offset insurance and other costs.
"We don't know what we want, so let's see what some entity would want to use the facility for," he said.
Earlier this year, a special ad hoc committee set up by the commission proposed the building be reopened as a snack shack for beachgoers. The group also called for reinstallation of an outside deck to allow outdoor eating and entertainment.
Other uses suggested included renting the building for weddings, birthdays and other special events; a meeting room for citizen groups; a museum for historical exhibits and display of local art; and as a tourist information center.
The building, which sits in the middle of Archibald Park, has long been controversial.
The park was originally donated to the federal government in the 1930s. The log cabin was built as a facility to be used by veterans visiting the beach. In 1972, the Department of the Interior deeded Archibald Park and the log cabin to the city, with the provision that it be used for public recreation.
The log cabin building was converted to a beach-related snack shack for beachgoers and was operated for years by the Disabled American Veterans.
In 2006, a failed plan to renovate the Snack Shack as a "destination restaurant" ended up costing the city $500,000 to settle a lawsuit with the concessionaire.
A year later, the commission decided to tear down the aging log cabin.
That decision prompted a grass roots effort among city residents, culminating last year in a citywide referendum that required the city to guarantee that it would preserve, rehabilitate and reopen the Snack Shack to the public.
So far, the city has spent $42,000 to renovate the aging log cabin, treat it for termites and bring the building's shell up to code.