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PN grants acreage for Wheelhouse parking

PORT NECHES — Owners of the Neches River Wheelhouse restaurant are taking advantage of Port Neches city’s option to obtain an additional 1.25 acres of land.

The additional acreage, which is adjacent to the restaurant located at 720 Lee Ave., will be used to construct a concrete parking area to accommodate about 90 spaces.

Bert Lamson, who is one of a group of investors with Wheelhouse Property LLC, outlined the success of the eatery during a recent city council meeting.

“We employ 95 people at The Wheelhouse with 45 full time employees,” Lamson said, saying the restaurant recently began providing insurance ahead of the 2016 mandate. “Thirty-two of the employees now have major medical insurance which is not common in this industry.”

Lamson said on Fridays and Saturdays they serve 800 to 1,000 customers each night and estimates they’ve served a quarter of a million people since they opened their doors a year-and-a-half ago.

“That’s a bigger number than we thought it would be,” he said.

Since the spring 2013 The Wheelhouse has served 50,000 sweet teas and12,000 orders of shrimp and grits.

“We’ve served 15,000 kids meals that come on a Frisbee,” he said. “Those numbers show we’re a family atmosphere. It’s fun to see the kids in the afternoon with the Frisbees outside.”

Lamson said The Wheelhouse has paid a quarter-of-a-million in employee taxes, $1.5 million in salaries and $340,000 in sales tax to the state.

With the success also come growing pains. Customers would arrive and see a line and leave so a palapa, similar to a tiki-hut, was constructed outside where customers could order a drink while waiting.

“What hurts is the parking,” he said. We have added 22 spots but it still hasn’t relieved the parking problem. People still park in the fields. We hear people, all the time, say they drove through the parking lot and didn’t see any spaces left which is why we want to go into contract with the city for the piece of property.”

City Manager Andrè Wimer said the city will now need to have the land surveyed to delineate the boundaries.

The Wheelhouse was born from an idea of a group of local investors who eyed a 3.75 acre piece of property along the Neches River adjacent to Port Neches Riverfront Park. The group asked city leaders for the title to the prime piece of property.

The title transfer was approved after much discussion and the property placed back on the tax rolls. The deal came with deed and zoning restrictions to protect the city’s investment.

E-mail: mary.meaux@panews.com

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