The popular Whale Harbor Seafood Buffet in Islamorada, which was gutted by a fire two years ago, is expected to be back in business next November, owner Howard Brody told The Real Deal.
The buffet building, on which ground was broken during Thanksgiving week, will also house a rooftop observation deck and watering hole called the Sand Bar.
“It will be a very cool place to hang-out and for everything from events to weddings,” said Brody, who noted that the bar will take its name from the actual Whale Harbor Sandbar, a popular boating and party spot that sits just offshore, within easy view of the Whale Harbor Marina and commercial complex. The Sandbar will be covered during bad weather by a retractable canvas roof.
The building that housed the Whale Harbor Seafood Buffet, as well as the Brazilian steakhouse Braza Lena, was gutted in a November 2013 electrical fire. Brody declined to specify how much the rebuild will cost, saying only that it would be “many millions.” He said it will be financed by a combination of loan, insurance and personal money.
Most of the inside of the one-story structure will be taken up by the seafood buffet. The remainder will house an as-yet undetermined restaurant, said Brody, who added that it won’t be Braza Lena.
Site plans submitted to the village of Islamorada show that the building will be 13,478 square feet, slightly smaller than its predecessor, which was cleared in June 2014, seven months after the fire. It is approved to hold 450 seats.
Whale Harbor Seafood Buffet sits on 2.6 oceanfront acres at 83413 Overseas Highway in Islamorada. It is contiguous with the remainder of the Whale Harbor Marina, which also houses Wahoo’s Bar & Grill as well as a fleet of offshore charter boats.
As part of the rebuild, the seafood buffet building will be moved from its former location near the Overseas Highway to further back on the property, closer to the ocean.
“It’s really going to be like oceanfront,” Brody said.