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Bistro 41 to take over Bayfront Bistro

August 21, 2012
By BOB PETCHER, , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Owners of a well-established restaurant in Fort Myers will be taking over the reins of an award-winning waterfront bistro on Fort Myers Beach in a week.

Bistro 41 co-owner Shawn LeMarie and Snook Bight Marina & Yacht Club resident owner Joe Yerkes recently announced the deal for Bayfront Bistro, located behind Publix Supermarket on Fort Myers Beach, would be officially closed upon on Tuesday, Aug. 28. Business operations may be assumed that day.

"We are really excited about the opportunity to operate a first class restaurant on Fort Myers Beach," said LeMarie. Robert Rommel is the other owner.

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Bayfront Bistro will undergo a transfer of ownership next Wednesday when owners of Bistro 41 take over operations at the award-winning waterfront restaurant.

The chance to become the business owners of Bayfront Bistro, the onsite restaurant with Snook Bight's property, was a golden opportunity.

"This restaurant with its location, view, menu and wine list was the perfect fit for us," said LeMarie. "We are always on the look out for business deals that make sense."

Dinah Leach will be the new general manager of the Beach bistro, while most of the staff is expected to be retained. A business-as-usual concept will be adopted.

"Chef Marbin will remain. He is well liked and does a very nice job for Bayfront Bistro," said LeMarie. "Staff will remain about the same. We will co-mingle some employees from both restaurants."

Major changes to the dcor, facility or restaurant name are not expected as well.

"We are trying to make this a seamless transition at this point," said LeMarie. "The place is top notch already, so we have no immediate plans for remodeling. We have some ideas about minor changes but need to see the flow of operations before we change anything."

Entertainment may be one added commodity to draw music lovers in the future.

"We realize there are some efficiency gains between both restaurants. We would like to see weekend entertainment, however we need to get in and start operating before we do anything different," said LeMarie.

Bayfront Bistro opened in January 2009. It was a vision of Yerkes, who admitted the Back Bay marina business partners never wanted to be in the restaurant business, but opportunity knocked.

"We were willing to take the risk of a fine dining restaurant on the Beach. We had to do it ourselves back then, but it's been a huge success," Yerkes said.

Yerkes stated Bistro 41 officials showed an interest and contacted him about the idea of purchasing the full-service marina's bistro. The amount of the sale is undisclosed, but the property's "partnership" is expected to go smoothly.

"They certainly are our kind of people," said Yerkes, "so it was a really easy decision. We are very happy with the sale. At the end of the day, it was certainly an offer we couldn't refuse."

Bayfront Bistro has received many accolades in the 3- years of operation, including the 2010, 2011 and 2012 Wine Spectator Magazine's Award of Excellence;'s "The Spectacular 10" waterfront restaurants listing; five OpenTable Diner's Choice top 10 online awards; the 2010 National Restaurant Association's Neighbor Award; and the 2010 Wine Enthusiast Magazine's award of excellence.

"Bayfront Bistro is certainly in the top 20 restaurants in Collier and Lee counties. "It has been a huge success," said Yerkes. "I'm delighted to bring Bistro 41 to the property and see them take over, because we are very familiar with them and their operation. It's going to allow Bayfront Bistro to continue to be a leading restaurant in the area."

Bistro 41 is no stranger to awards itself. Most recently, the restaurant in Bell Tower Shoppes was a winner in the Diners' Choice category and was one of only two bistros in Florida to be named among the "best bistros in America" by French wine maker Domaine de Nizas. The honor was based on consumer votes.

"Bistro 41 has been known in Fort Myers for its food, wine and, above all, its service. We hope to bring that to (Bayfront Bistro to) improve upon an already great restaurant," said LeMarie.

Snook Bight Marina project

Yerkes now plans on focusing his full attention on marina operations and the major expansion going on presently. The docking facilities are in the midst of being upgraded.

"We've been trying to get that done for eight years with the permitting. We finally got there," he said. "We have about five more revenue streams we will add to the project also."

The project involves the removal of current wood docks and installing 54 brand new permanent floating docks that will measure 20- to 25-feet wide with the addition of 21 temporary slips for the restaurant and boat launchings.

"The marina is a big project right now," said Yerkes. "We are dredging at the moment, then will be putting in the new docks, which will be arriving here about Aug. 25. That's a major expansion."

The new docks are composed of aluminum-framed composite material.

"The footprint of the marina will increase quite substantially," said Yerkes. "We are moving another 60 feet out into the bay. So, it will be quite a bit larger facility."



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