NEWS & AWARDS

Exclusive: Gecko’s owners buy Marker 4 Restaurant

By: Sarasota Herald-Tribune

April 4, 2016

Gecko’s Hospitality Group has added Marker 4, a waterfront landmark in Venice, to its impressive portfolio of local restaurants.

Marker 4, currently open for business, is scheduled to reopen as Dockside Waterfront Grill in May. The restaurant with alluring views of Roberts and Dona Bays offers boat docks along with ample parking. The open-air dining under the tiki huts will be refreshed by what the new owners are describing as an “authentic Florida seafood menu” plus some favorite items from the other Gecko’s Hospitality Group locations.

“We’ve been going there for many years and just love the Venice area,” said co-owner Michael Quillen. “Plus, you just can’t pass up a waterfront location.”

Since opening the first Gecko’s at The Landings in 1992, local owners Quillen and Mike Gowan have covered Sarasota and Manatee counties with six Gecko’s plus sibling joint S’macks Burgers & Shakes. In 2015, Gecko’s Hospitality Group added the venerable Dry Dock Waterfront Grill on Longboat Key to its family of restaurants.

Quillen and Gowan are leasing what will be the Dockside Waterfront Grill space from Michelle Witzer, who owns the property at 509 N. Tamiami Trail that also includes Fisherman’s Wharf Marina. Quillen said he hopes they’re able to keep as many as the approximately 50 Marker 4 employees as possible while bringing in some of their own management team.

The new menu will include popular Dry Dock  items such as the grouper sandwich and lobster roll.

“We’re going to be serving good, healthy local fish,” Quillen said.

Gecko’s favorites such as chicken wings, tuna nachos, house-made potato chips and burgers will also be added to the menu.

The full bar will likely continue to serve usual suspects such as margaritas, mai tais and mojitos, but a larger craft beer selection and wine on tap will also be made available.

As for changes to the exterior and interior of the restaurant, Quillen expects only minor tweaks, citing previous renovations. After an 18-month hiatus and multi-year legal fight with local government that drove a previous owner into bankruptcy, Marker 4 Restaurant reopened in 2014.

A major refurbishing covered everything from a new parking lot to gray walls being repainted a festive green and salmon pink. A large tiki hut was added in front of the restaurant and the 433-foot dock opened with 47 slips for boaters. Inside, the 4,600-square-foot restaurant features seating for approximately 115. A granite slab bar wraps around one wall, providing seating for 25 inside and room for 12 more outside in the shade, the Herald-Tribune reported in 2014.

Dockside Waterfront Grill is at 509 N., Tamiami Trail, Venice, or, by boat at Marker 4, adjacent to Fisherman’s Wharf Marina. Venice pioneers Capt. Ben and Isa Mae Dunn broke ground on Fisherman’s Wharf Marina in 1950.

“We’re really looking forward to getting into Venice and getting everything completely ready for next season,” Quillen said. “Venice is such a cool, laid-back town and just the perfect spot for us and the timing is perfect. We love opening restaurants in the summer.”