Tourism Board to pay $3.1M for Pamlico Jack’s

By on October 18, 2019

At its Oct. 17 board meeting, the Dare County Tourism Board confirmed it would acquire Pamlico Jack’s, a popular seafood restaurant in Nags Head, as part of its plan to expand the Soundside Event Site.

Following a brief 10-minute closed session to discuss the acquisition, the board returned and announced it would purchase the property owned by well-known restaurateur Mike Kelly for $3.1 million. The purchase will be funded through the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau’s restricted fund.

The Dare County Board of Commissioners need to approve the purchase before any expenditures can be made from that fund. Lee Nettles, the Visitors Bureau Executive Director, will come before the commissioners at their meeting on Nov. 4.

Back in July, the Tourism Board received a presentation from Johnson Consulting President Charles Johnson that included three options for the further developing the Soundside Event Site, which is widely seen as currently underutilized. Those options revolved around constructing an event center or constructing an event center and hotel.

In the meantime, Nettles told the Voice that the Tourism Board was focused on acquiring the restaurant site and making use of it “as quickly as possible…Obviously it’s a prime piece of property, and the opportunity to purchase it might not have continued to exist. The board thought it was wise to pursue it while we had the opportunity.”

“We knew there was quite a bit of work to be done still on meeting the land requirements and the town’s ordinances for an event center, and we felt like with the additional property, we would be able to close some of those gaps better in terms of parking and lot coverage and septic,” he continued.

For his part, Kelly said he bought Pamlico Jack’s 30 years ago from a Philadelphia chef named Arthur Sturges. At the time, the restaurant was called the “Elegant Pelican,” but Kelly changed the name to “Penguin Isle,” in homage to one of the three small islands behind the restaurant. He changed the name again 10 years ago to Pamlico Jack’s, switching up the menu and refurbishing the place.

When contacted for comment, Kelly told the Voice he was “very pleased” with the sale of that property. “I’ve had numerous conversations with various people on the board about what I think the area needs, or Dare County needs, and I think they do a really good job of trying to do the right thing with the best long-term approach to the needs of the area. To that, I’m very pleased, and very glad to be working with them,” he said.

The acquisition happened “real fast,” Kelly said, and he wanted to inform his staff about the next steps as soon as possible and give them a chance to ask questions. “You want to be fair to staff and let them form an opinion, as opposed to coming in…and saying ‘Hey, we’re closing tomorrow and you don’t have a job anymore,’” he explained.

In late 2017, Kelly sold his iconic Nags Head restaurant and entertainment venue, Kelly’s Outer Banks Restaurant & Tavern, for nearly $4 million to the Germany grocery company Lidl. Lidl has not yet begun any work on that site.

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  • OBX Resident

    Nuts. Three million here, two million there, another million here, more money there, and for what…..a festival with a flying keg….where is the return on investment….Behind the facade of this ‘event center’ spending by the Tourism Board are a bunch of good ole boy gangsters running the county using your tax dollars to enrich themselves. There is no master plan for the site, no business plan to show a return on investment, just an enormous amount of fiscal waste.

    Friday, Oct 18 @ 11:27 pm
  • tim

    It was named Penguin Isle, not Island before Pamlico Jacks.

    Saturday, Oct 19 @ 8:37 am
  • Cliff Blakely

    OBX Resident How often do you eat or drink in local restaurants? How many nights a year do you stay in local hotels or vacation house rentals? Do you buy prepared foods at the grocery store or cook for yourself? You are not paying any of the tax if you don’t do any of the above. The lodging and meals tax is what supplies the TB with it’s funding. Every town get a huge chunk to put in their general fund. The event center is a much needed space in our community. Drive by there this weekend. The purchase of PJ may eliminate the need for a large multi purpose building. Win, win for all.

    Saturday, Oct 19 @ 8:59 am
  • roberta

    as long as they use donated funds (not taxpayer money) I see no problem with this, no one is forced to donate but people are forced to pay taxes for things they dont want or dont need. looks like a nice little resturant are they going to continue to run it and continue to sell food?

    Saturday, Oct 19 @ 9:07 am
  • charlie

    Cliff…Win-win?…. Where?… The event center is a much needed space in our community… Even Festival Park can not garner enough events right now. Please explain why the event center is much needed? I drove by this weekend. Absolutely, the place was packed-today… Empty far, far more often. I’m no accountant but the land tax on Pamlico Jack’s, plus sales tax and meals tax from that establishment would now be lost… It would be nice if the tourism board put out a pro forma on all of their plans. It looks like they sought local input for all of a few hours one evening and the board puts out zip about income and expenses on the site…….I would be first to wave the flag to support this if all of the cards were on the table… All I see is a stacked deck.

    Saturday, Oct 19 @ 8:07 pm
  • Sand Flea

    So, who stands to profit from this?

    Monday, Oct 21 @ 8:30 am
  • Right Hook

    3 million to expand event site that is already underused. TB $ are to promote ans support tourism. This money would be better used to build affordable living arrangements for seasonal workers. We lose many prospective seasonal workers (lifeguards, servers, clerks, etc.) due to the unavailability of affordable living arrangements.

    Monday, Oct 21 @ 9:00 am
  • OBX Resident

    @ Cliff: Cliff, if I may, first a tax is a tax. Reduced taxes, lead to increased spending. The war chest that the ‘TB’ has amassed through taxation is greater than Antonio “Tony” Montana riches. Yes, for ten or 15 days a year, the Event Center site ‘make benefit glorious Nation of the Outer Banks’, and with that said I simply would like to see a master plan for the site, a profit/loss report, and other information that should be readily available to justify these ongoing expenditures. With the spending of this amount of money there should be transparency. I can assure you that the restaurant building’s demolition is also in the future. Two years ago, the TB purchased the restaurant across the street and it sits there in decay. This past year, the TB purchased the Dairy Queen, and it sits vacant. Again, I fully support making our community a better place and if these purchases do it, great. But with this said, it needs to be fiscally responsible and transparent.

    Lastly, Cliff, there is a first class facility in Manteo, Festival Park. Why does the TB choose to not support Festival Park but instead build another Event Site directly across the sound to compete with this publicly owned facility? Is it simply ‘good ole boy gangsters’ enriching themselves at taxpayers expense….. I’ll bet $10 million dollars to date has been spent on these properties and improvements by the TB.

    Monday, Oct 21 @ 6:13 pm
  • obxmike

    I hope that whatever this expansion will do, it will lead to better housing for Police, Fire Fighters, first responders and so on. I understand the tourism angle of the board, but without affordable living arrangements, the problems will not get resolved. The tourism taxes go where? Not to keep service workers here as needed. What are long term plans?
    I wonder how much it will cost to improve the site. Just remember the cost of Dowdy Park.

    Tuesday, Oct 22 @ 9:25 am
  • surf123

    @obxmike Nothing being done by the tourism board or county will have any effect on the effort for better (more affordable housing). The TB and BOC have no interest in helping anyone other than the tourists and for jamming as many of them as they possibly can into the county.

    Affordable housing efforts are in effect scams because they never result in affordable housing. only because the best use of any real estate on the beaches is for rental houses. Any effort needs to be in Manteo or on the main land. I understand it is no desirable to some, but just because you want to live somewhere does not mean that you should be able to on your own terms.

    Wednesday, Oct 23 @ 10:59 am
  • SharkBoy

    Looks like the displaced folks that worked at Kelly’s are now going to be displaced again, perhaps off the beach.

    Wednesday, Oct 23 @ 4:27 pm
  • obxmike

    You are so correct…sadly. I was just making a point about the obvious. A friend of mine called it the “plantation mentality”..not my words, theirs. There is a very thin middle class here without the ability to move up. This is a symptom of a much larger problem. Too many of our kids just go away and do not come back. To what? Short term leases or living with their parents? Work several jobs just to exist?
    This dichotomy is not sustainable. Sad to see.

    Friday, Oct 25 @ 3:12 pm
  • CheetahOBX

    With all due respect……it would appear that ‘ole Mike Kelly… making a MINT in/from the Outer Banks… a long time property owner AND visitor for over 50+ years(no….I’m not THAT old!)……it’s very sad to see how things are progressing……..It would be GREAT to see the Outer Banks “powers to be”…..clean UP the joint…..becoming more and more trashy….like other “northern” state(s) beaches……

    Friday, Oct 25 @ 3:22 pm