Morgan Creek Grill has served IOP residents and tourists on the water for over 17 years before closing in 2019.
Fortunately, in the wake of the closure, IOP residents and Mex 1 Coastal Cantina owners Dave and Chrissy Lorenz and Jon Bushnell sent the town a proposal to completely renovate and reinvent the property as Islander 71 Fish House and Deck Bar.
“We had lived on the island for a while and we knew it needed kind of a kick-start from a branding perspective, interior work and all that kind of stuff,” Lorenz said of the decision to take over the space. “So being locals, we knew what the potential was there.”
“We want the island to be proud of this place,” he added. “It’s a great asset for the city, and we want to bring it to light. It’s got an amazing view and is an amazing location. We felt like it was always kind of under-utilized.”
Acquiring the space was a long process Lorenz said. Instead of negotiating the lease with one person, it was with the council of IOP since the city owned the property. Nevertheless, the Lorenz’s and Bushnell called the town “great to work with.”
Since receiving the approval to renovate the property, the trio has spent the past year re-working both the interior and exterior of the building. COVID-19 setbacks related to construction material shortages and price increases delayed some of the processes, said Lorenz, but they “were seasoned on it … and just rolled with the punches.”
One of the other challenges during construction was structural damage to the rear of the building. However, that allowed Lorenz and team to create a new double decker deck off the back that faces the Intracoastal Waterway .
The renovations to the back of the restaurant were a “big part in utilizing” the building’s location, Lorenz said, allowing guests to view the water on two sides — the Intracoastal Waterway in the back and Morgan Creek out front. Other renovations include higher ceilings for an “open and lighter feeling,” a front bar area near the boat ramps, perfect for viewing the area’s “Qualified Captains,” more TVs for sporting events and an expanded open space in the front, where “locals could just come up on their golf carts and hang out.”
“It’s just a better utilization of the space, in terms of better views of the water, which is what everybody wants,” Lorenz said, adding that despite water everywhere, there aren’t actually many places in Charleston for waterfront dining. “So that was our first thought,” he said. ‘How do we maximize the views?’”
As for the food, Lorenz said it will be “casual, very approachable and craveable local seafood.” Islander 71 is planned to hold 300 to 400 seats, he said, and the best way to keep the quality of food consistent is to “keep it simple” with local ingredients.
“I really just want to speak to what people want when they go out on the water, right?” he added. “You know, casual seafood, a good burger, a good steak. So you come and you’re going to get your favorites, and we’re going to do them very well.”
Islander 71 is looking to open to the public late March to early April, “barring any crazy delays” and “right in the sweet spot,” Lorenz said.
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