CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Nueces County believes it's found a way to keep a popular restaurant on bob hall pier open and solve a $750,000 dollar problem.
That's the amount of federal grant money the county was ordered to pay back because it allowed Mikel May's restaurant to be where it shouldn't be. The grant money was used to expand the observation deck at the pier. The restaurant owners have leased the deck for years. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department said that commercial activity isn't allowed at a federally funded structure.
The other option was for the county to close Mikel May's. However, a meeting between county leaders and federal officials this past spring resulted in a small breakthrough.
"It's an invitation to do a swap, if you will -- to discontinue an agreement we had for one structure and to replace it with this other," Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales explained to KRIS 6 News.
She said the proposal the county plans to submit to U.S. Fish and Wildlife is to build a new observation deck at Horace Caldwell Pier in Port Aransas that would meet the criteria for the federal grant -- to provide a place to look at and learn about our marine life and habitat that's free and accessible to the public.
Canales said it would also accomplish a major goal for the county, saying, "It would mean that Mikel May's would be left to be the revenue generator that it is for the county."
According to Canales, the restaurant has generated more than $650,000 in revenue to date. That's why she says keeping the restaurant open would be a victory for the county. However, she said this proposal is beneficial for all parties that are involved.
"Port Aransas gets an amazing observation deck and educational center. Mikel May's gets to continue doing what they're doing and U.S. Fish and Wildlife gets to have the comfort that people can appreciate wildlife and habitat along the Texas Gulf Coast."
The funds for the proposed deck would come from the county and the Port of Corpus Christi. Port commissioners voted on Tuesday to contribute $250,000 toward the potential project. The total cost is estimated between $750,000 to $800,000.
This issue will go before county commissioners later this month for their approval. Canales says that will give the county time to submit the formal proposal to the federal government by the August 14 deadline.