Tampa's newest waterfront restaurant boasts an open-air, Caribbean vibe.
Seven years ago, Graeme Fraser and brothers Bill and Bob Curtis of Island Management saw vacant marine industrial land at Rattlesnake Point, south of the bustling intersection of Gandy and Westshore boulevards, as the ideal spot for Tampa’s next must-visit waterfront restaurant. Working with Tampa-based contractor the Sinclair Group and a $4.5 million budget, they realized their vision when the Salt Shack opened in July.
“The good thing about industrial zoning is it allows for damn near everything under the sun,” Fraser says.
He says Tampa Bay developers have historically not taken full advantage of the area’s waterfront dining potential. He and his partners thought an open-air, Caribbean-style bar and grill concept with a weathered, lived-in look would be a particularly potent draw.
“One of the things I liked about the build is that it didn’t have a lot of high-end finishes,” says Terence Troyer, the Sinclair Group construction superintendent who oversaw the project. “They wanted it to look like it had been there for a while.”
But before the restaurant could be built, the developers faced numerous hurdles in preparing the site for construction.
Decades ago, for one, the military dumped a lot of fill on the Rattlesnake Point land to bring the grade up. Because the Salt Shack had to be elevated three feet above the ground, the Sinclair Group had to pull out all sorts of debris, such as pieces of an old concrete bridge, to clear the way for more than 160 pilings that had to be driven 15-20 feet into the soil.
“There were a few areas where we hit something solid underneath the ground and had to either dig it up or cut it out of the way,” Troyer says. “You just never knew what we would find.”
Another challenge was the property’s prodigious amount of stormwater runoff. That required the construction and installation of a large underground collection vault with filters. The Salt Shack’s proximity to the water’s edge meant installation had to take place on Mother Nature’s schedule.
“We had to plan days ahead and track the tides,” Troyer says. “We had to perform some of the work right out in the water, where it dumps into the bay, at low tide, because once the tide is up too high, it would flood our pipe.”
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