It’s official, Port Neches getting new restaurant along riverfront; plans shared publicly

Published 12:30 am Sunday, October 8, 2023

PORT NECHES — If all goes as planned, there will be a new restaurant along Port Neches riverfront by May 2024.

Local restaurateur Min Dai received the green light to purchase 4.54 acres of land to place a two-story beach style structure for a restaurant/bar/entertainment venue earlier this week.

And he’s receiving the same type of guidelines as The Neches River Wheelhouse did when receiving the go-ahead more than 10 years ago.

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“The arrangement is consistent with what was afforded The Wheelhouse when it was developed,” City Manager André Wimer said. “The land was conveyed for $1, and Mr. Dai’s investment is in the $4 million range in terms of construction and also including furniture ad fixtures.”

Wimer said the agreement between the City and Dai requires construction to begin in six months, but Dai indicated he wants to start construction in November, with an anticipated completion date, weather permitting, in May 2024.

And just as provisions with The Wheelhouse, Dai’s property cannot be sold for five years, and the operation of the restaurant/bar must be in compliance with Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission regulations.

The proposed development has been in the works for several years.

Mayor Glenn Johnson has served in office for the many phases of riverfront development. In a recent interview he expressed excitement over the new business.

“It goes to show you that we had the right vision for all these years,” Johnson said. “We’re just getting the right match between public and private investments, and it’s a good partnership.”

Johnson said if the new restaurant is as popular as Neches River Wheelhouse — which was the first development along the riverfront — then Port Neches would recoup property tax and sales tax revenue that far exceeds what has been put into the property.

The new venue will have permanent and alternating food trucks, four pickleball courts, two sand volleyball courts and a children’s playground.