Singleton’s Seafood Shack in Mayport Village is getting about $750,000 in renovations to comply with permit and safety requirements.
Third-generation owners Dean and Tabitha Singleton operate the popular restaurant at 4728 Ocean St., next to the Mayport Ferry along the St. Johns River.
Before COVID restrictions started in March 2020, diners often would eat on the deck to take advantage of one of the few places for true waterfront dining in the Beaches area.
“People love to come out to the deck to see the sunset,” Tabitha Singleton said.
“They also like to see the fresh shrimp being unloaded from the boats. They see those shrimp and say, ‘I’ll have some of that,’” Dean Singleton added.
In early 2020, the Singletons decided to repair the dock that adjoins the restaurant. Several heavy storms and busy hurricane seasons necessitated the work.
While reconstructing the dock, the Singletons decided to have the dock crew expand the deck, which is partially over water.
It sounded like a natural way to abide by the state-mandated outdoor dining restrictions at the time.
However, no one has dined on the deck. Because it is attached to the restaurant, the deck was determined to have been illegally built because it lacked proper permitting.
A subsequent fire marshal’s inspection found that the entire restaurant requires a sprinkler system.
Two attached storage areas also need the fire system installed and those ceilings and walls also must be repaired.
The Singletons said W.W. Gay is contracted to install the sprinkler system.
While the Singletons would not disclose the cost, they have received estimates of $150,000 and $200,000 for the sprinkler system alone. A $40,000 kitchen exhaust hood already has been added.
To meet code, a wall must be built behind the bar in the middle of the restaurant to separate it from the deck.
Floors and ceiling deficiencies that had been cited in a recent health inspection also will be fixed.
The Singletons plan to open the restaurant by mid- to late November, when customers will see many new tables inside and out.
The deck is expected to have 60 picnic and high-top tables and the inside will have 30 to 40 tables.
Since January, customers have not been allowed inside the restaurant.
Besides offering takeout, guests have been served in a 40-by-60-foot party tent that rents for $5,000 a month.
The portable toilets and hand-washing station runs another $2,000 a month.
A large industrial fan tries to push cool air through the tent that covers 35 tables.
“Our customers have been a godsend. They have been willing to sit out in a 106-degree tent,” Dean Singleton said.
Even with the makeshift dining room, the restaurant has lost money. The Singletons have seen their 2019 estimated gross of $2.5 million cut in half.
Where they employed about 50 employees two years ago, they now have 25.
The restaurant opens at 11 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
When the renovations are completed, Tabitha Singleton wants a grand reopening party. While there are no definite plans she expects to bring back bands that used to perform in the parking lot.
“I can’t wait until we can take down that circus tent,” she said.