Bimini Bait Shack, a seafood restaurant, tiki bar and grill situated right before the Sanibel Causeway, plans to reopen within the first two months of 2023 following damage from Hurricane Ian.
First opening its doors in 2018, Bimini’s island atmosphere with live music, swing seats and a fish tank bar kept guests coming back. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, where many restaurants saw a customer dip, Bimini General Manager Amy Lawrence said the restaurant’s numbers held up to average.
Serving about 500 guests daily, with 1,000 to 1,200 guests on weekends, the Bimini team awaits its reopening as repairs are underway.
The restaurant endured an estimated 9 to 10 feet of storm surge and 140 mph winds. Since the restaurant sits on pole structures about 16 to 20 feet in the air, minimal water entry occurred in the front of the restaurant. “Everything that was damaged on the inside was either caused by roof damage or the wind,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence anticipates redoing the restaurant’s metal roof due to high winds and hurricane gusts. The site regained electricity eight days after Ian and running water was restored about a week ago.
For guests who frequent Bimini, the fish that inhabit the fish tank bar are all safe and made it through the storm. “Everybody asks about the fish and I love it,” Lawrence said. “We didn’t lose one single fish. So, the fish are being taken care of and they will return.”
Lawrence is still waiting on insurance for the total costs of damage and repairs. “I’ve seen a couple of estimates,” she said. “They’re very high, extremely high. With the cost of product and materials now, metal has gone up considerably. I’m waiting on the final verdict.”Lawrence says about 70 percent of Bimini’s staff of 70 have been part of the team for a minimum of three years.
“For me personally, it breaks my heart that we can’t be open for the staff,” she said. “I am just crushed. We have a fantastic staff.”
In the meantime, most of Bimini’s staff found temporary employment, with the understanding that they would return to Bimini as soon as doors were open.
Some of the staff suffered significant to complete damage to their personal property, with some being momentarily displaced.
Fort Myers sports bar Buckett’s Wings and More has been hosting fundraisers where 10% of orders go to the staff at local restaurants impacted by Hurricane Ian. Bimini Bait Shack’s night was Tuesday.
“What these owners are doing for the local community should be put on a pedestal,” Lawrence said. “It brings us together.”
While repairs occur in the upcoming months, the Bimini team awaits to return to where they call each other family, with respect to neighboring communities.
“We want to open as soon as possible as long as it doesn’t interfere with Sanibel, their rebuild and their infrastructure,” Lawrence said. “I hope it’s soon. It’s such a great place. We get to see everybody from all over the world, all the time. It’s a unique thing that the owners have created for us.”