When Jamie Bourdeau spoke to a reporter on Monday, standing near the main entrance to Beach Front Grille, the restaurant he’s owned since 2014, he was sounding a lot more buoyant than his Facebook post had sounded 48 hours earlier, when he seemed to be preparing his clientele for the final days of the Grille. But it had come down to those few words he spoke on Monday: “It’s not money I need. It’s time.”
He got both. “It came down to minutes,” a posting on the restaurant’s Facebook page read shortly after noon today, “as of 11 AM! Good news, Beach Front Grille is here to stay!” (In an interview today, Bourdeau said the final money transfer made it through with just 30 minutes to spare.)
That big exhaling sound that skimmed the waves up and down the coast was Flagler Beach breathing a sigh of relief, not least as 37 jobs were saved at the restaurant.
“I am very happy to see Jamie and Beach Front Grille stay in Flagler Beach,” Flagler Beach City Commission Chair Eric Cooley, who also owns the 7-Eleven on A1A, said. “In addition to all of the jobs that will be retained, both Beach Front Grille and Tortugas have been some of the most amazing community partners we could ever ask for with Jamie, Scott, and Paul always giving back to the community via Feed Flagler Beach initiatives or with Flagler Strong, in addition to all the ways these owners help their neighbors on a personal level every day. This news is a win for everyone in the community.”
Commissioner Scott Spradley, an attorney in town who’d previously held advisory roles on city business panels, spoke of the restaurant earlier this week, when its fate was less clear. “For the 20 years I’ve lived in Flagler Beach I have seen the restaurant from its beginning in its current state, from what it used to be,” said Spradley, who lives behind the restaurant half a mile to the west on South 23rdStreet. “It’s an institution, and so many look forward to going there, whether it’s for Sunday brunch or NFL.” He recalled how during Covid Beach Front Grille developed the $5 cheeseburger that proved to be a lifeline for many.
It was one of many examples of the business’ community involvement, from spaghetti dinner fun-raisers to contributions to Christmas Come True, the non-profit that collects gifts for less privileged children, to other holiday drives. Even before she was mayor, Suzie Johnston would team up with then-Mayor Linda Provencher to provide meals for people in need around Flagler Beach at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Beach Front Grille would prepare the meals and charge $5, Johnston said, only to donate the proceeds to first responders in the city. Naturally, the possibility that the restaurant would not be around at the next Thanksgiving had troubled Johnston. “It’s a restaurant that’s constantly giving back to the community,” she said. “Jamie is always giving back, putting the community first and in turn, the comm supports him.”
Bourdeau on Monday said he’d been touched by the outpouring of support and described, with what looked like an emotional gleam in his eyes, how some people were willing to make personal contributions to help. He’d been remarkably, publicly candid about the challenges he faced when he told his followers that the restaurant last June had entered into a mediated agreement to buy Beach Front Grille for $2.25 million.
The closing date was Wednesday, but as of late last week, the restaurant had secured $1.7 million, so was still short. “There have been and will continue to be heavy negotiations, texts and phone calls over the weekend to cross the finish line before Wednesday. If we do get it done then no problem,” Bourdeau wrote. “If we don’t get it done then we hand over the keys and enjoy the memories we have had on what could be our final weekend!” He gave it a 50-50 chance.
By Monday, he said things were looking up. He was even thinking about preparations for the Super Bowl on Feb. 11, a tradition at Beach Front Grille, saying he might close the restaurant a couple of days in preparation.
“It’s great to see that Jamie overcame that substantial financial challenge,” Spradley said today after Bourdeau’s announcement. “I am so happy for Jamie and his employees, in addition to the many local patrons who are now relieved that Beach Front Grille will continue to thrive. As a resident in that part of town, I know that Beach Front Grille and Jamie are both Flagler Beach icons, so having their business continue is great news for the community.”
For Bourdeau, Beach Front Grille is only the longest-lasting of three major restaurant ventures he’s involved in. Last December, he and partners signed a five-year lease to launch Loopers, the restaurant at Palm Coast’s Palm Harbor Golf Club, in place of the Green Lion. The restaurant has been very successful since. Last April, he and partners bought High Jackers, the restaurant on the grounds of the Flagler County airport, and renamed it the Landing Strip, all the while working on the future of Beach Front Grille.
During the feverish last days, Bourdeau had gone as far as planning to move certain events to the Landing Strip and Loopers if necessary. “It is with a heavy heart that I share this with you but I’d rather face this head on then run and hide like the Colts leaving Baltimore,” he told his followers, before the turn-around.
The restaurant building itself, at 2444 South Ocean Shore Boulevard, within a few feet of the oceans–the dunes have been ravaged there, but a beach-rebuilding project will rebuild the beach starting in June–had its own tumultuous history before Beach Front Grille opened in November 2014. It was in that building that Peter Lyden and his less visible partners opened the strip club known as Liquid in 2006, mobilizing protesters even before the place opened, and filing suit so its dancers could parade nude. It lost the lawsuit, and lost the battle with public opinion as Chad and Jennifer Dennis leased the property to open a bar and grille they were to call Refs.
Then came Beach Front Grille–to stay.
“A heartfelt thank you to everyone for the incredible love and support,” Bourdeau wrote today. “The overwhelming response from the community has been truly heartwarming. Gratitude to each person who stepped up to help in this situation. We’re looking forward to continuing to serve you all.”