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Seaside Grill’s re-opening comes as early Christmas gift

STORY BY SAMANTHA ROHLFING BAITA (Week of December 21, 2023)
Photo: Luke Khan, Wylie Wong, and Jorge Diaz.

It’s open at last!  The Seaside Grill, Jaycee Park’s iconic eatery, re-opened its doors Dec. 12 just in time for the holidays, and was warmly welcomed back by its fans who had waited an unexpected 20 months for this moment.

The little blue-and-white wooden structure, owned by the city of Vero Beach, was shuttered  in  April 2022 when its long-time proprietors, Dan Culumber and his family, retired and gave up their lease after three decades of serving patrons.

South Florida restaurateurs Andy Studebaker and Wylie Wong of SW Hospitality Group partners won out over a field of seven firms bidding to take over the restaurant space and got to work on renovations and repairs as soon as receiving the keys that July.

But after uncovering structural and equipment issues no one had foreseen, as well as the need to deal with updated building and health code requirements, “the extensive repairs and renovations took the project  longer than anyone anticipated,” says City Manager Monte Falls.

Far longer.

But two days after finally re-opening last week, with a full house inside, Studebaker, Wong and their General Manager Luke Kahn took a brief break on the covered patio, where new tables and chairs have replaced the notorious concrete “picnic style” seating of decades past. 

As dark clouds moved in, with the ocean pounding the shore and the wind kicking up, the buzz of music and animated conversation filled the air. A swirl of appealing aromas from Chef Jorge Diaz’s kitchen drifted across the patio, and Studebaker, Wong and Kahn talked about their plans.

“We are so thankful for all the support from the community and from the City,” Studebaker said.  “We’re already having good crowds,” added Wong. “And they haven’t complained about the months-long wait. They’re just glad we’re open. And that’s seven days a week: breakfast  7 to 11; lunch 11 to 5;  and dinner, 5 to 9 (Monday through Saturday). Sundays it’s breakfast from 7 a.m. to noon.”

Studebaker, who spent many days on site during the renovation, frequently waving to and chatting with former customers walking by on the boardwalk, said that even before the opening, “I already knew a lot about what former customers ordered – and where they sat.”

The 2,500 square-foot eatery has the same seating capacity as before: 65 outside, 35 inside, and, as before, restaurant patrons will continue to have access to the city’s nearby Jaycee Park restrooms.

“The city is pleased with the reopening of the Seaside Grill,” Falls said. “We look forward to many years of success for the new proprietors, and are ecstatic that a Vero Beach institution is back in business.”