CORTEZ -- For visitors, the Cortez Kitchen is a popular restaurant on the Sarasota Bay, but for residents of one of the last operating historic fishing villages in the country, Cortez Kitchen refers to the entire area that has provided a way of life for generations.
John Banyas, owner of the Cortez Kitchen and Swordfish Grill & Tiki Bar, knows that better than most, so understands that change should only happen when it's for the good.
Banyas says business at the Kitchen is good, and he wants to make it easier for restaurant patrons to get in and out of the parking lot at 4528 119th St. W. by relocating the small Cortez Bait & Seafood retail shop to a new location.
The quaint seafood shop has been operating for more than 15 years and is a local favorite for residents and visitors. It will be relocat
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ed near the Cortez Post Office in the 12100 block of Cortez Road West. Banyas pulled the construction permit this week and said if everything goes according to plan, he hopes to open his new shop in about a month. Until then, Cortez Bait & Seafood is open for business as usual.
"It's a better location and will be easier to get into," said Banyas. "The restaurants stay pretty busy, so for people who are only looking to come to our shop, it will make things easier. At the same time, it will make parking a little easier here because there won't be the semi trucks and forklifts in the way."
Parking at the popular Kitchen can be problematic despite the large parking lot. During season, it can almost be impossible. Banyas said restaurant customers probably won't notice much of a difference because only the small retail shop is being relocated. Fish operations will continue at the site, and Banyas will remodel the docks to give the area a more aesthetic value while improving parking opportunities. He's also excited about his new location.
"It will definitely be bigger with all the fresh seafood we have now and more," he said. "We'll also have a full selection of bait for people heading to the boat ramps. We'll offer a shuttle service for those folks back to the boat ramps as well. It's a good move for us to open a bigger and better location while opening up space here for more parking."
While change can be difficult in one of the county's true "Old Florida" locations, Banyas said it's just a minor change that will give the Kitchen even more exposure.
"It's better exposure for the retail part of it, which will have better products," he said. "It's making it easier for people to get in and out of the new location, as well as the restaurants here without having to dodge trucks and forklifts. It's a win-win."
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.