MADEIRA BEACH — After more than a decade of controversy, the beachfront Snack Shack will reopen to the public next month, possibly by the Fourth of July weekend.
"We are really excited," Rita Janecek, owner of the new concessionaire, Paradise Sweets LLC, said Tuesday. "It's going to be a really wonderful thing."
She said she plans to name the building "The Old Snack Shack" to honor the informal name used for years by residents and beach visitors.
Last week, the city learned the U.S. Department of the Interior had approved, with minor changes, the city's February contract with Paradise Sweets to reopen the 1930s era log cabin at Archibald Park as a food concession for beachgoers.
There was a warning in that approval, however.
William Huie, Southeast Region program manager for the National Park Service, "strongly" advised the city to make its own "independent interpretation" of the original deeds conveying the park to the U.S. government.
At issue is whether or not a food concession violates the deeds' prohibition against any commercial use of the park.
Alex Archibald, grandson and heir of one of the original property owners, has long argued that a third-party, for-profit concession in the Snack Shack does violate those deeds.
In a long e-mail to City Manager W.D. Higginbotham Jr. last week, Archibald again threatened legal action to enforce what he says his family believes is a ban against "any commercial use, regardless of scope" on the property.
"He was not happy but he didn't really say anything new," Higginbotham responded Tuesday.
"My family's goal is to have my grandfather's and David Welch's warranty deeds honored and enforced. I will continue this effort until the quitclaim deed is revised to remove the provisions for concessions," Archibald wrote to Higginbotham.
The original owners deeded the beach property to the federal government in 1931. The U.S. Department of Interior turned the beach park over to the city in 1972.
It was subsequently operated as a food concession by the Disabled American Veterans until the mid-1990s. It has been closed to the public since then.
Several years ago, the city paid $500,000 to settle a lawsuit with a vendor over the same issue. That time, the city allowed the prospective vendor to begin renovations before the proposed destination restaurant was rejected by the Parks Department.
The city then considered demolishing the building but was stopped in 2008 by a citizens group, Save Our Snack Shack, that successfully pushed for a citywide voter referendum to prohibit the demolition and require the city to reopen the building to the public.
The City Commission then repaired the deteriorating building, sought suggestions for its use from citizens, considered moving it to a less controversial location, and eventually signed the concession agreement with Paradise Sweets.
Janecek said Tuesday that she and her husband, Michael, plan to immediately begin renovations with the goal of opening on the Fourth of July weekend.
They are already ordering equipment and planning to file for permits to install new flooring, counters, plumbing and electrical fixtures.
When open, it will operate from 8 a.m. until about one hour after sunset, she said.
The menu will include specialty coffees, juices, beer, wine and smoothies spiked with rum-flavored wine, breakfast sandwiches, deli sandwiches, hot dogs, sliders, Working Cow ice cream, and Hawaiian shave ices. Visitors can also shop for beach-related items and souvenirs.
Patrons will be able to sit inside, on a shaded deck outside, or at picnic tables on the sand between the Snack Shack and the beach dunes.
Janecek also hopes to collect and display old photographs showing past use and activities at the Snack Shack.