4 years after closing, Santa Maria Restaurant still in limbo

Some locals want to see the restaurant back up and running

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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The only over-water restaurant in St. Augustine remains an eyesore for locals and visitors alike.

The Santa Maria Restaurant, once a popular spot near the Bridge of Lions on the Matanzas River, has gone untouched after shutting down four years ago. It’s empty and has fallen into disrepair.

A local family wants to rebuild the restaurant, but has been unable to come to an agreement with the city. The two sides are hung up on the family’s plans to install new docks outside.

News4Jax spoke with locals who want to see movement on the restaurant sooner rather than later. 

"It’s kind of an eyesore now," said Tyne Anderson, who lives in St. Augustine. "It is an abandoned building essentially and it’s falling into the water – literally."

The White family, which also owns O.C. White’s Seafood & Spirits and The White Room wedding venue, bought the Santa Maria property in 2015 in the hopes of getting it back up and running.

Docks proposed for the east side of the restaurant for locals to visit by boat appear to be the family’s chief sticking point with the city.

The city said the docks would interfere with commercial traffic at the municipal marina, which is next door, adding that the family has not presented new plans since withdrawing an application last year.

The family has not yet responded to questions about whether there are new plans in the works.

Regardless, some locals are hoping that both sides can reach some sort of compromise soon to get rid of the eyesore and replace it with a thriving business.

"I’m just really excited to see something happen with it," Noel Barnwell said. "It would be great to see it fixed up and something that locals can utilize and can bring money to the city as well."

Added Anderson: "They bought it, it’s their property. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to do with it what they want, as long as it meets code and all that?"

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