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Big Fish wins Indian River Marina contract

Katie Tabeling
Big Fish Restaurant Group Indian River Marina Hammerheads Dockside

The Big Fish Restaurant Group will take over the Indian River Marina bar and restaurant after winning a new 10-year state contract. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DNREC

REHOBOTH BEACH — Big Fish Restaurant Group is officially moving into the Indian River Marina, as the state Department of Natural Resources and Control announced Friday that it has awarded the contract for the restaurant.

The 10-year contract runs from March 1 to Feb. 28, 2033, and grants Big Fish the ability to run the 1,400-square-foot restaurant in the marina  and a 1,100-square-foot pergola with a full waterfront menu fare, including seafood dishes and alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. 

Big Fish will also provide carry-out service from the marina, as well as breakfast and delivery service to the marina as well as the Delaware Seashore National Park’s North Inlet Campground.

“We welcome Big Fish to the Indian River Marina and look forward to watching their progress in meeting the growing needs of our park and marina visitors. Their business has won more than 50 awards for the quality of service they offer to the public,” DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin said in a statement. 

Big Fish has roughly a dozen locations throughout the state, including its flagship restaurant in Rehoboth Beach and one at the Wilmington Riverfront; Mikimotos, Taco Grande, Washington Street Ale House and Trolley Street Oyster House in Wilmington; and several other concepts at the Delaware beaches.

“‘We are excited for this opportunity to take over such a wonderful place,” Big Fish Restaurant Group co-founder Eric Sugrue told the Delaware Business Times. “We look forward to the upcoming season and many more years to come. We will share exciting updates as we move closer to opening. We appreciate all of the support.”

Since 2013, Hammerheads Dockside has run the restaurant out of the marina as its second location in the Delaware beach area. The owner, George Bendler, announced at the end of January that Hammerheads Dockside would be closing its doors for good. The contract on the venue expired on Feb. 28, 2023.

Hammerheads and Big Fish each submitted bids for the Indian River Marina contract. DNREC officials said that the request for proposals was rated on seven criteria categories. Eighty percent of the total score included quality and diversity of the menu; past performance; the vendor’s action plan; vendor’s financial stability; creativity in planning; and designing and delivering a successful establishment. Revenue paid to the state equated 20% of the total score.

“While it is never easy to change concessionaires, the state RFP process is fair and Big Fish Restaurant Group submitted the winning proposal this time,” Garvin said. “I encourage any Delaware business that wants more information on the state bidding process to visit Delaware’s contract portal, which has a wealth of information about the process.”

The award notice states that Big Fish will pay an annual flat fee of $35,000 as well as a percentage of gross receipts. That percentage is 6.5% for daily restaurant operations less than $2 million and 7% on sales more than $2 million.

Events are also subject to the gross receipt clause of 6.5% between 2023 to 2024, 7% between 2025 to 2026, and 10% between 2027 and 2033.

Big Fish is also granted the right to renovate the property, with DNREC’s approval, but all must be completed before April 15, 2024, per the award notice. Hammerheads’ boat shaped concrete top bar is not included in the contract, and will be removed before the changeover.

Delaware’s Seashore State Park has 6 miles of ocean and 20 miles of bay shoreline, and is one of the state’s crown jewels in tourism. The state touted recently that the park saw more than 1.8 million visitors in Fiscal Year 2022.

The Indian River Marina, in a quiet spot between Bethany Beach and Rehoboth Beach, has 294 boat slips, a floating dock system and 154 spots for indoor boat service. A dozen rental cottages overlook the Indian River Inlet, and the Burton Island Trail that runs through the woods and along the water is popular among hikers.

Hammerheads Dockside brought in an average of $1.4 million each year, between 2016 and 2021. In 2021 alone, roughly 31,677 patrons came to Hammerheads and revenue was $1.9 million, according to the request for proposal filed by DNREC.

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