OKALOOSA ISLAND — It’s a new location, but the atmosphere is instantly familiar and instantly Fudpucker’s.
After more than 25 years, Fudpucker’s Beachside Bar and Grill closed its home on Santa Rosa Boulevard in September to make way for a new Okaloosa Island restaurant. The new location at the former Daddy’s Money bar on U.S. Highway 98 is nearing completion and is scheduled to open after Christmas.
“This is in a way a dream come true,” said Chester Kroeger, who founded Fudpucker’s in 1983 and remains one of the owners. “I’ve wanted to be on a waterfront location from the very beginning, but was never in a position to do that.
“I got started in Nightown and I had a couple of years on the beach in South Walton, but this store and Fort Walton is the one that gave us the ability to do Destin and then achieve what we achieved,” he added. “To be able to come over here and do it here at this waterfront location, it means an awful lot. It’s almost the fulfillment of a dream.”
Kroeger has big plans for the new Fudpucker’s to take advantage of Choctawhatchee Bay. It will feature three restaurants and a Fat Daddy's Arcade.
The traditional Fudpucker’s, which will share the same menu as the Destin location, will be on the second floor overlooking the bay. Fudpuckeroni’s, a sports bar that will specialize in pizza, wings and other bar food staples, shares the ground floor with Fat Daddy's Arcade.
On the back side will be the outdoors Fudshucker’s, a steam shack and raw bar scheduled to open March 1.
The new Fudpucker’s also will have its own dock, where it will offer personal watercraft and pontoon boat rentals, as well as parasailing and two charter boats to take people fishing.
“We’re going to have the new Crab Island right out behind the dock if I have my way,” said Tony Borcyk, who will manage the front of the house.
Boaters will be able to anchor near Fudpucker’s and call in to the restaurant to have a pontoon boat pick them up and ferry them to and from the restaurant at no cost. All of the water activities also will start March 1.
When the restaurant opens, there will be a small alligator attraction at the front called Gator Island. Kroeger said plans already have been drawn up for a much larger $500,000 alligator exhibit that he hopes to build in the near future.
Construction on the former Daddy’s Money building has been under way for about six months, and the restaurant was expected to open in early November.
“A lot of different things caused the delay,” Kroeger said. “The biggest thing was we kept seeing things we wanted to do to make the building better. And every time there’s a change, you go through a two- or three-day process to change from this to that. Honestly, we’ve had no problems whatsoever with oversight from the county. In fact, they’ve bent over backwards to help us, and all of the contractors here have been phenomenal. It’s simply more of a task than I had anticipated.
“There’s a lot of things we could have done to get it open sooner, but it wouldn’t have been the same building,” he added.
Contact Daily News Business Editor Dusty Ricketts at 850-315-4448 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DustyRnwfdn.