Owner sad with Smiling Fish leaving Gulf Place

Smiling Fish

The blue and white umbrellas on The Smiling Fish’s patio at Gulf Place have sheltered many a hungry patron.

Deborah Wheeler | The Sun
Published: Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 04:59 PM.

After a 13-year run in the same location, The Smiling Fish Café is smiling no more.

The café’s owner, George Barnes reports he was unable to reach an agreement with his landlord at Gulf Place on terms of a new lease for his eatery at the corner of County Roads 393 and 30A, and the decision was made that the café will move on to a different locale.

“This is sad because for me, this has been a love story,” said Barnes. “I have been happy to be here 13 years and it has been humbling and flattering to see people come back week after week, and sometimes two or three times a week. I’ll miss it, but will continue somewhere else. I am going to find a new home somewhere.”

A press release announcing the closing was sent out at the end of last week on behalf of the Gulf Place Town Center. The release stated that The Smiling Fish will remain open through the end of the year. Effective Jan. 1, the space occupied by The Smiling Fish and the Naked Grape wine bar will be taken over by a new dining establishment known as La Playa, which will be owned and operated by Joseph Morris, owner of Café Tango, and his sons, Patrick and Andrew.

The Naked Grape, which was operated by the owners of Restaurant Fire, closed this week for remodeling. The Smiling Fish will remain open in its present location through the end of the year.

 According to the release, La Playa, which means the beach in Spanish, will feature casual dining along with a menu reflecting the Morris family’s favorite dishes from the Caribbean. The restaurant will offer a full bar with all drinks made from scratch. The wine list will reportedly range from boutique to international.

The new combined space will include more than 80 indoor seats along with the outdoor corner patio dining area that overlooks the Gulf.

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