Summer Remix

Shooters Waterfront is a South Florida landmark for dining and socializing.

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In its early days, Shooters Waterfront—along with its neighbor, Bootlegger—became a local draw for its scantily clad bikini contests.

By Larry Schwingel

In 1982 four Canadians, Aurel Lahaye, Reggie Moreau, Rolli Maranda and Mel Burgess, pooled their resources to purchase a large plot of land near the Intracoastal Waterway. On it was a small apartment building that was eventually torn down and replaced by a new two-story restaurant resembling a TGI Fridays—so much so that Burgess first thought about naming the new restaurant TGI Fridays on the Water. But after the hunting enthusiast adorned the walls with collectible guns like muskets and other artifacts, the restaurant was christened as Shooters.

It had 20-foot-high ceilings, multiple bars and water views. Its neighbor was Joe Foley’s Bootlegger, which held a “hot-bod” contest with bikini-clad women as one of its biggest draws. Foley erected a privacy fence to keep customers from being lured over to Shooters but saw the writing on the wall and within six months asked to be bought out. The Canadians accommodated him to the tune of about $1.2 million.

“Gradually, more bartenders and managers from TGI Fridays on 62nd Street came over to Shooters,” says Greg Jackson, a 37-year employee of the restaurant.

Shooters offered ample dock space—a prime invitation to boaters. It sat near a busy marina with offices, which created an abundance of foot traffic. “It was like a little Bourbon Street in Fort Lauderdale,” Jackson says. “The lines were long, and waitresses took trays of drinks to people on the boats.”

Jackson met and served thousands of people over the years, but it was at Shooters where he met the love of his life. “It was really by accident because I was working in the kitchen and got called out to tend the bar,” he says. “Gail walked in, and it was love at first sight. We were together for 33 years, and she was the greatest person I ever knew. After she passed a few years ago, the management and many guests provided me with tremendous support. I’ll never forget that.”

In 2014, under the management of Meghan Leckey and her father, William McIntyre, the restaurant unveiled a multimillion-dollar renovation and new name: Shooters Waterfront. In 2019, it was named to Restaurant Business magazine’s list of the Top 100 independent eateries. Its management team is dedicated to being creative and providing a resort-style appeal.

“Some people arrive in expensive cars, some come on bikes and others visit by boat,” Jackson says. “The decor, the food and drinks, and the water views make Shooters a special place.”

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2020 Issue.