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Some residents in Muskegon ‘concerned’ about restaurant's expansion on the beach

The Deck restaurant at Pere Marquette Park says they're ready to add entertainment value for beachgoers, but some residents say they wish the City sought their input first.
Posted at 5:50 PM, Mar 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-26 19:28:28-04

MUSKEGON, Mich. — Marty San Clemente has enjoyed the beach at Pere Marquette Park every single day for the last 46 years. Every day, she’s either taken a walk along the beach early in the morning before work or in the afternoon or evening.

However, she's recently noticed some new construction at The Deck restaurant during her walks.

“I think you could do something here and expand and have it not be so invasive to the environment,” San Clemente said during an interview with FOX 17 on Thursday. “You could use the sand that’s there and not obliterate the view for people that are walking by, that come down here to the park sometimes and just look at [Lake Michigan]. I mean, that’s what they do.”

San Clemente said people from all over the area drive to the beach to take pictures of the lake. She’s often seen wildlife like eagles and deer on the beach. During the summer months, it’s filled with families and children having fun. But, when she saw large containers on the beach a few weeks ago, she became suspicious.

“People are really concerned about as to what is this ever going to look like,” San Clemente said. “Are we keeping this? Is this a done deal that we have no other choice anymore?”

Fred Scharmer, who owns The Deck, said they’re expanding their venue to add more seating. They’ve been around for seven years and have always planned on increasing the space.

“In 2020, we had 500 seats, and we’re doing a large expansion. When we’re finished in 2021, we’ll have 900 seats,” Scharmer said. “It’s basically an outdoor entertainment venue and restaurant. So, it’s located right on the beach in Pere Marquette. I mean, it’s being created out of shipping containers.”

There’s several large containers next to the restaurant on the beach. Scharmer said once it’s all finished, it’ll be a place were beachgoers can dine and listen to live music.

He added that they went through the proper protocols in order to get the expansion approved.

“You start with a basic planning commission. If you get approved by the planning commission, then it goes into soil and erosion. And then from soil and erosion, you go into DEQ permitting. From DEQ permitting, you go into building permitting,” Scharmer said. “So, it is kind of misleading to believe that it was kind of just thrown together. It’s far from that. It does take quite a bit of time and quite a bit of planning and several different levels of city officials to approve.”

San Clemente said many residents have complained to city commissioners about The Deck in the past.

“Some of this is in reaction to the neighbors being upset about all the noise from music from the restaurant,” said resident Judith Elsey, who’s also a friend of San Clemente. “They were trying to find a solution for that, to help solve a number of problems. But, it’s like Marty said though, I don’t really think anybody really had any input, certainly not the neighborhood, into how that got solved.”

FOX 17 contacted all of Muskegon's city commissioners for their perspective and are waiting to hear back.

Scharmer said The Deck did their part in reaching out to the community.

“We’re great neighbors. We reached out to the neighborhood association. We did a large tour with the neighborhood association and all the city officials that were able to make it,” Scharmer recalled. “After the meeting everybody unanimously agreed that we’re great for the community and can’t wait for us to open.”

Scharmer said they’re excited to open too. They’ve even allocated funds to paint the containers to the people’s liking.

San Clemente and Elsey believe there’s still more conversations and meetings that need to take place before it opens.

“I think business would be wonderful to have that but just incorporate the environment,” San Clemente said. “Don’t take a pristine beach and just unload a bunch of trailers.”

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