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Bonita fire department says purchasing waterfront restaurant was crucial

big hickory waterfront grill and marina
Posted at 4:42 PM, Jan 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-23 16:54:31-05

BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. — Something you don't hear all the time is a fire department purchasing a waterfront grill for a cool $6 million dollars.

On Monday, Bonita Springs Fire Chief Greg DeWitt said the Big Hickory Waterfront Grill and Marina was purchased by the Bonita Springs Fire Department on January 10th with no intention of personally, ever firing up the grills.

“We are not in the restaurant business, we are not in the marina business, we’re in the public safety business,” said Chief DeWitt.

Chief DeWitt said, the department had been renting out a substation that sits on the same property and is owned by the same person as the waterfront grill.

"We had nowhere else to go on the island so we decided as a district thats going to be where we want to be,” said Chief DeWitt.

Chief DeWitt said they bought both properties using public funds for the price of $6 million dollars at the start of the new year and hope the substation can be rebuilt sometime this summer.

So, why throw in the restaurant?

“We just had to buy both because the owner did not want to separate the two, they are kind of symbiotic to each other,” said Chief DeWitt.

Chief DeWitt told Fox 4 that having the substation in that location before Hurricane Ian, was cutting response times in half for areas like Lovers Key State Park and Hickory Island.

“It's one of the only fire stations in lee county where the boat and the fire station are at the same location,” said Chief DeWitt.

On Monday, a previous employee, Margarito Cortez, who was stopping by the Big Hickory Waterfront Grill and Marina said new ownership means he needs a new job.

“I had to see my old job and I miss my job,” said Cortez. Cortez said he was given the opportunity to work at Big Hickory Waterfront Grill and Marina 32 years ago.

“ We see it as an investment that we had to get and it's going to benefit the public for response times and we feel that in the long term, it's going to benefit them with a recouping of the money,” said Chief DeWitt.