A floating restaurant is afloat again after the 74-foot boat sunk to the bottom of the James River during Hurricane Irene.
A few weeks ago, Mike Britt and his wife were about to open Mallory, Richmond’s only floating restaurant. The menu included seafood and cheese platters. With seating for about 80 and a newly acquired ABC license, the venture was poised to take its place among the emerging riverfront dining scene near Rocketts Landing.
But then Hurricane Irene hit, and the 40-year-old boat sank.
Britt, who also owns Poe’s Pub, had the boat decked out with chairs, a bar and a galley kitchen.
During the hurricane, the boat took on water from rain and waves. There might have been a small opening from renovating the boat that was not properly sealed, and the chairs and tables were weighing down the boat more than usual.
But the 74-foot vessel was not destined for a watery grave. The boat’s owner, local developer Louis Salomonsky, called in an expert from California to come and get the boat out of the water and back in operation.
Cheryl DuBois, a Richmond area native who now lives in Los Angeles, flew into town after the storm. She had previously been in town to help Salomonsky get the boat certified to carry passengers. DuBois had owned a charter boat company in the Caribbean island of St. Maarten for seven years before she moved to California to work in the entertainment industry.
Before Irene, DuBois had a premonition that something bad was in store for the boat.
“I didn’t sleep at all that night. I knew something was wrong,” DuBois said.
(In addition to being a certified boat captain, Dubois is also a psychic. She just sold a TV show to the Fuse Network, in which she channels dead musicians and will connect them with former band mates and family members to write and record new music.)
So she wasn’t surprised when she got the call from Salomonsky telling her that the boat had sunk and that he needed her to come rescue it.
DuBois oversaw the operation of lifting the boat, which involved a dive crew, air bags and two small cranes. Then the crew had to pump water out of the various compartments, which were inundated with mud and inhabited by eels.
The engines still worked. Dubois is refurbishing the decks and replacing all of the wooden parts. All in all, the rescue and restoration will cost close to $100,000, she said. That’s about a quarter of the amount already put into buying and fixing up the boat the first time around. There was no insurance on the boat or the restaurant.
She said the boat should be back in shape in another two weeks.
Meanwhile, Britt said he and his wife are eager to get the restaurant back on track.
“Things are in a little bit of a state of flux,” Britt said. “The season is getting away from us, but we want to get together.”
Britt said he hopes to start putting the restaurant back together as soon as the boat is ready.
Britt was the first to find that the boat had sunk. At first he didn’t think it could be revived.
“We just figured that was that,” Britt said. The restaurant was two days from opening, and Britt said one of the hardest parts of the ordeal was calling the 20 or so people they had hired to tell them they didn’t have a job.
“It has been rough, particularly on my wife, who put her heart and soul into this thing,” Britt said.
Britt has been keeping a hopeful watch on the restoration effort.
“She did a pretty good job getting it up out of the water,” Britt said. “It was quite a job.”