ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. (WCBD) – Islander 71 is set to open at the Isle of Palm’s Marina this Spring replacing the former Morgan Creek Grill at the same location after after being closed for nearly two years. Finding the new restaurant tenant was a process surrounded in controversy at points during the process.

Islander 71 will feature expanded seating, new decks overlooking the Intercoastal Waterway, a revamped menu and other new features. The restaurant’s co-owners say its been a challenge getting to this point with renovation delays but say they’re excited to open soon.

The closing of Morgan Creek Grill after more than 17 years at the location and search for a new tenant led to months of controversy island wide and beyond. The property which is owned by the City of Isle of Palms was put out for bid before City Council picked which plan to move forward with.

Controversy ensued over the process to find a new tenant. Criticism from island residents and others played out over the course of hours-long city council meetings for a period of months. The process left the building empty for roughly eight months as the process played out. Some residents claimed the process wasn’t fair or transparent.

Once the process was settled, new owners took over and have spent more than a year conducting major renovations on the restaurant. The building was stripped to the bones replacing essentially everything from electrical to plumbing and more.

“And we’re just giving this whole restaurant a whole make over I mean new electrics, plumbing, HVAC, and just it really needed a full blown renovation,” says Co-Owner Dave Lorenz.

Isle of Palms Mayor Phillip Pounds says the city is excited to get the asset back and open for Island residents as part of its revitalization of the town’s marina property which will eventually feature the restaurant, Marina Market, public boat ramps and a greenspace.

“You know it’s been two long years to get us to this point,” says Mayor Pounds. “Parking is probably the biggest challenge we have left to make sure this is a successful area for all tenants out here at the marina.”

Lorenz says it’s something he think will be the perfect addition to the Isle of Palms once Islanders 71 is able to open.

“We’re rolling with it and I think it is going to be a great opening,” says Lorenz. “It’s perfect timing right in the springtime and I think everyone is really ready for it on the Isle of Palms.”

The projected early Spring opening could be pushed back if the electric supplies or other needed materials continue to be delayed. Lorenz says he’s still hopeful the restaurant will be able to open in either March or April.