OLD SAYBROOK - Taken out first by storm surge from Irene and then a year later by Superstorm Sandy, many worried that the iconic Dock & Dine restaurant at Saybrook Point might be gone for good.
But soon in the spring of 2013, hammers were out and the restaurant was being repaired in time to open for the 2013 summer season. Owner Jon Kodama was allowed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to re-open temporarily as long as he promised to rebuild above the flood line after the season ended.
Kodama and investors drew up new plans to rebuild the restaurant above the flood elevation. Exterior stairways and an interior elevator would take patrons up to the new higher deck and indoor restaurant overlooking the Connecticut River. Town land use boards reviewed and approved the proposed plans. So it looked like it would be ready to open for summer 2014.
Then nothing happened.
Recently Kodama explained why the restaurant's re-construction has been delayed-and confirmed the project is still very much alive.
"I was advised to use financing associated with Storm Sandy. But that went nowhere," said Kodama. "We wasted a lot of time trying to get money from FEMA tied to Storm Sandy."
By early in 2013, Kodama had already secured the private financing component of his project budget. He just needed loans to complete the project budget, so tapping FEMA money seemed a logical step.
But after the FEMA application review dragged on for months with no progress, he faced a dilemma. The process already had taken too long, and he would now miss the summer 2014 season. And there wasn't even a promise that approval would be forthcoming.
So now he had to take a different path to secure the financing he needed. This time, he looked for help from State of Connecticut programs targeted to support small business expansion. These programs-the Connecticut Innovations Program and the Connecticut Community Investment Corporation-wanted to help him.
Finally, after months of waiting, Kodama believes he will finally by the middle of August have the paperwork confirming he will receive the needed financing, this time from state programs.
With this state funding now secured, Kodama will be able to proceed.
"Hopefully, we'll be driving piles for the restaurant by September," said Kodama.
And that's good news for all who've wondered when-and if-the Dock & Dine restaurant at Saybrook Point would re-open.