Zak Kearns looked ready and able to turn his Ford's Garage concept into a waterfront destination, and the Cape Coral City Council can't wait to see him try it.
Council on Monday ranked Kearns' Ford's Boat House, Waterfront Caf USA as the top concept of the two to take over the location filled by K-C's River Stop for more than 20 years before the city declined to renew its lease this summer.
The Ford's Boat House concept beat out T&D Adventures of Southwest Florida, which proposed Poppy's Grill with a promise to return the Yacht Club to a glory it had never experienced and to undo a "mistake" the representative made years ago while he was mayor.
"We're super excited about the council's decision to move forward and we're excited to be even more involved with the community," Kearns said. "We're happy with how the locals have responded and we hope it continues."
Kearns' proposal passed the council sniff test despite concerns over the late hours (closing at midnight on weekends) and the possibility of a full bar.
It also survived the wrath of Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz, who seemed displeased over the offer of $3,500 per month for a lease rather than the $4,800 originally sought, which could be a deal breaker if the sides don't come together.
"It's potentially doable. We're just waiting to see where we rank, then we'll negotiate," Kearns said, who opened Ford's Garage on Cape Coral parkway two weeks ago.
T&D Adventures, represented by former Cape Coral Mayor Joe Mazurkewicz, promised to take an underperforming location and make it special by bringing in people whose lifeblood has been in the city.
"We want to be a partner with the city and fix the mistake I made 23 years ago," Mazurkewicz said. "We want the Yacht Club to evolve into the jewel we envisioned.
His plan included renting beach accessories, an entire remodeling of the facility, expanded menu and special events, with an opening date of Oct. 12.
Both would sell gasoline and sell bait for fishing.
There were originally three proposers. The third, Dixie Roadhouse, decided to back out of its proposal for a tropical-themed eatery, citing its consideration of a new facility in Estero and the remodeling of its rooftop patio.
"It was a very tough decision to back out. We have a lot of things coming up. We're working on a patio, another location and loss of events," said Dixie Roadhouse owner Lynn Pippinger. "It was about where our team wanted to concentrate its efforts."
In the end, the concerns about noise in the neighborhood after midnight we're allayed by the thought of moonlight walks on the sand and the belief the other proposal was so much like what it got rid of.
"It's a definitive change. The T&D proposal looked like a minor change from K-C's. Our concern with Ford's was the evolution into a nightclub," Councilmember Kevin McGrail said. "People like the thought of a night dining experience and going out on the water. I'm still romantic at 56."
The city manager will negotiate with Kearns, with City Council having final say on the contract's approval.