Repairs nearly complete at restaurant

Published 9:07 pm Thursday, July 15, 2010

For most of the past nine months — since a nor’easter flooded the building — there has been little activity at Bennett’s Creek Marina and Restaurant.

But things have started moving again — evidenced to those passing by on the nearby bridge on Route 17 by the cars in the parking lot — and the restaurant could open early next month.

Owner Danika James has been hard at work getting the restaurant ready for an Aug. 6 grand opening since settling a divorce in June in which she was awarded the restaurant.

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“We’ve all been working so hard to get things back and up going,” James said. “I’ve had so much support from the community and my staff. Even our regular customers have come out and helped by doing their trades. I’ve missed the restaurant the staff and all our customers so much.”

Before the flooding, the restaurant was a popular stopping-place for motorists and boaters alike. James managed the place for a year before the flooding, while she and her husband were still married.

Now, come divorce or high water, James is determined to get back in business.

“We’ve encountered challenges, but I love this place, I just love it,” James said. “I love the people, the staff and the work. I don’t want anything more than to have my staff running around with lobster pagers going off, kids laughing and music playing in the background.”

To get to that point, James has spent more than eight months repairing the damage the November storm caused in its 48 hours.

“The restaurant was literally an island during the storm,” James said. “You could get in a boat and go all the way around it the water was so high. I tried to come to the restaurant right after the storm, but the water was still so high I couldn’t get the door open.”

When she finally was able to get in, the damage was heartbreaking, she said.

“There was mud everywhere, on everything,” she said. “You could see the water had come up at least 36 inches, it covered the bar stools and nearly reached the top of the bar. We had a walk-in unit out on the deck, and the only thing that kept it in was the railing. It had floated. The ovens were filled with water. Food was all over the place.”

In preparation for the storm, James had placed the recently purchased equipment on blocks to raise it, but the water still managed to ruin it.

More that $7,000 worth of food and the tables, floors, equipment, walls and electrical outlets had to be replaced.

Because the November nor’easter was the third storm since 2003 that has flooded the restaurant, James is taking precautions for future years.

She has put everything on wheels, installed larger doors to wheel the refrigerators and equipment out, put in concrete wall panels below the railing and put all the electrical outlets up higher.

While there are some new improvements — including a mural of the waterfront, two entrances, more deck seating and indoor music on the weekends — regulars will still recognize the place.

“Everything from our hours to our staff to our menu will be the same,” James said. “We’re not about to change a good thing. People don’t have to worry about that.”