ANNA MARIA -- Anna Maria Island is rallying around the employees of the Rod & Reel Pier restaurant, all 30 of whom have temporarily lost their paychecks after the business was temporarily shut down by a kitchen fire Monday.
The Rev. Gary Batey of Roser Community Church on Pine Avenue in Anna Maria told Rod & Reel Pier Manger Dave Cochran that All Island Denominations, a partnership between six island churches, will provide emergency help to the employees for rent, utilities, food and other needs while they are out of work.
All Island Denominations is usually just for Anna Maria Island residents and members of island churches, but the group decided to cover Rod & Reel Pier mainlanders, too, Batey said.
"In the case of the Rod & Reel Pier, we are including them because they serve the island," Batey said.
Roser Community Church also invited the idled employees to come to its food bank, which can be open by appointment around 2:30 p.m. weekdays by calling 941-778-0414 .
A grateful Cochran said Tuesday he hopes the original estimated two-month
repair time can be shortened.
"They realize how things are," Cochran said of the employees. "We do think we can reopen sooner than two months, but we're in limbo right now until the fire inspector, insurance investigators, auditors and other officials are finished with their work."
All Island Denominations includes CrossPointe Fellowship, Episcopal Church of the Annunciation, Gloria Dei Lutheran, Harvey Memorial Community, St. Bernard Catholic and Roser.
"The cooks, the bussers, the wait staff, most have no cushion or sick days to use," Batey said. "We are glad they are there to serve us and now we must serve them."
Cochran said he will notify his employees they can call 941-725-2433 for the church aid.
Cochran also said he will ask the restaurant's insurance company about possible "loss of wages" benefits for employees.
Cochran said the fire came in the slowest season, which makes it tough for the workers to find other restaurant jobs on the island.
"Valentine's Day through Mother's Day is our big season," Cochran said.
The Chiles Restaurant Group, which owns three waterfront eateries, including Sandbar Restaurant, BeachHouse Restaurant and Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant and Pub, announced Tuesday it will try to support Rod & Reel Pier employees, said Caryn Hodge, Chiles Restaurant Group marketing director.
"We will lend any support we can," Hodge said. "We are just thankful the whole building is not gone."
"Everyone looks out for each other on the island," said Leslie Olson, a manager at Sandbar Restaurant.
Sandbar Restaurant is not expecting a huge increase in customers, even with Rod & Reel Pier being closed, because it's off-season, Olson added.
Cochran said the fire occurred on the southeast wall of the restaurant facing the Anna Maria City Pier, which is the Rod & Reel Pier's sister facility, both run by Mario Schoenfelder.
"The flames were in the walls only," Cochran said. "But they had to tear holes in the roof. The ceiling is ripped down. Equipment has been moved."
There is still no electricity in most of the damaged restaurant, but Cochran got permission to have electricity in a storeroom for a walk-in and reach-in cooler and one freezer.
"We lost everything we had ready to serve Monday, but we sent some stuff to the City Pier and we still have produce in our storeroom," Cochran said.
The historic pier, where people usually can fish for $2, is also closed for now.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @RichardDymond.