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New owners talk breathing life back into Pompano Club, timeline for reopening

PORT NECHES — The Pompano Club is coming back — courtesy of a group of local businessmen.

The group: Lance Bradley, Bert Lamson, Jon Carona, Robby Muse and Jill Pierce — owners of the Neches River Wheelhouse — joined in and bought the former Pompano/Benton’s at 330 Twin City Highway.

Bradley, speaking from inside the newest acquisition, said he had interest in the Pompano for “many, many years” and spoke to Ed Hughes (former owner) previously about possibly acquiring the property but the timing was not right for either side, Bradley said.

“When they closed we inquired about it,” he said.

The Pompano had been around for decades, hosting banquets, dinners, club meetings, special occasions and more while outside was the pool with the iconic bridge over it.

But with 2017 came Hurricane Harvey and devastating flooding. The owners at that time decided to make some changes to the eatery, opening it to the public, tweaked the recipes a bit and changed the name to Benton’s, an old family name.

But the past year was tough and ultimately the COVID-19 pandemic factored in on the closing after 45 years in May.

The future

So, now the name will go back to the Pompano Club.

“We acquired all of the rights to the name and all of the recipes,” Bradley said. “We will go back to being the Pompano Club when we reopen.”

While the new owners have only had possession of the facility for a few days, there have already applied for a liquor license, though they do not know when it will be issued.

The ideal plan would be to open for some Christmas parties, if feasible.

Bradley said he would know if this is possible within the next week and asked individuals to keep an eye out on social media and media.

“There is a definite need for a facility like this in the area,” he said.

And, whenever it is finally opened, Bradley and the new owners hope to make the Hughes family proud.

The new owners want to bring back the “business meeting,” where people dine on white tablecloth tables while they meet, Bradley said, adding there’s not many places like this around.

The general manager

Justin Wiest, general manager, is intrigued at the mystique the Pompano holds over locals.

He and his family moved to the area in 2014 and heard of this private club. Now, he’s a part of the Pompano.

“We want it to be a fine dining place with great steak and a pleasant place for weddings and anniversaries,” Wiest said. “And in summer when the pool’s open, enjoying in the sun and relaxing.”

The legacy

Bradley and Wiest have spoke about the Pompano, and Wiest has heard of happy memories of the place.

“Whatever we do, we hope to make the Hughes family pleased,” Bradley said. “This is a legacy we’re trying to carry on. They ran a smooth place for many, many years, now it’s our turn to put our twist on it.”

A lot of the Pompano will stay the same, though there are changes coming to the pool area, with the addition of a palapa. Bradley sees it as a place where customers can go after their meal to sit, maybe watch a game and relax.

Bradley hopes to have the restaurant portion open by the first of the year.