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Miami panel green lights tiki-hut restaurant for Scotty's Landing site in Coconut Grove

New owners may soon take over the waterfront home of Grove Key Marina and Scotty’s Landing, the Coconut Grove eatery known for its laid-back ambience and spectacular views.

On Friday, a selection committee gave the nod to group called David One, LLC, whose partners include Jimmy Flanigan of the Flanigan’s restaurant chain and Matt Johnson, who owns Monty’s South Beach, Sugarcane and Sushisamba.

David One is proposing a casual restaurant housed in a tiki hut, as well as a boating store, public park and expanded marina for the city-owned land. The group promises to pay the city at least $720,000 in annual rent.

“We want to keep the same laid-back, Coconut Grove feel, only updated,” said Stephen Temes, a venture capitalist involved in the project.

A bid from Scott Wessel, the current marina and restaurant operator, came in second place. His pitch included upgrades to the restaurant, including the addition of a second story and an expanded menu.

The 35-year lease between the city and Grove Key Marina, of which Scotty’s Landing is a part, expires later this year. City officials want the next operator to renovate the boatyard and restaurant, and provide a higher-end experience for patrons.

Miami officials also asked for proposals to re-cast the upscale Chart House restaurant on a separate waterfront parcel.

Five companies made pitches for the casual restaurant and marina project. Only one expressed interest in the upscale restaurant: Landry’s, the Texas-based company that already runs the Chart House restaurant chain.

A five-member committee made up of city employees and design and development professionals heard 10-minute proposals from each of the bidders on Wednesday. The presentations were closed to the public under a newly revised state law, but the deliberations that followed were open.

The committee named its favorites on Friday.

That Landry’s was tapped to redevelop the Chart House restaurant was a foregone conclusion. But the committee wrestled with the decision over the casual restaurant.

Committee members balked at a separate proposal from Landry’s to operate the marina and eatery, criticizing its offer to pay $500,000 in annual rent to the city. The figure was the lowest offered.

Some members liked a design from AAA Marine Group, which entailed converting a historic airport hangar into a collection of indoor sidewalk cafes and bars called Fleat Streat. That proposal offered the highest return to the city. Other panelists were excited about a plan from Grove Marina ventures to plunk a Garcia’s seafood restaurant and fish market on the site.

But in the end, the tiki-hut design from David One was deemed the favorite.

“They have an understanding and an appreciation for what kind of restaurant concept would work there,” said Henry Torre, a committee member and head of the Miami public facilities department.

Anna Parekh, a Miami Beach employee on the committee, said she favored the plan’s cohesive design and its pitch to expand the marina.

“As the economy improves, people will come back to needing boat slips,” she said. “And municipal marinas generally have very long waiting lists.”

The selection committee hopes to see the $720,000 annual rent promised by David One negotiated up to $840,000.

Should negotiations fall through, Miami would attempt to strike a deal with the Scotty’s team, which offered $600,000 in annual rent, the committee said.

The suggestions now head to City Manager Johnny Martinez, who can reject them or pass them along to the city commission.

Because the properties sit on the waterfront, city residents must also weigh in. Miami officials hope to include questions about the two leases on the November ballot.

Scotty’s Landing isn’t likely to fade quietly into the sunset.

Two dozen patrons and employees turned out at the meeting Friday, many wearing green-and-white T-shirts that read “Save Scotty’s.”

Hadley Williams, a Grove resident, said he was disappointed in the committee’s choice.

“The committee meeting was not open to public comment and the responses to the proposal have not been made public,” he said.

Williams also pointed out that both Monty’s and Flanigan’s have locations in the Grove already.

“People have already voted with their feet and with their dollars to grow Scotty’s,” he said.

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