The City of Columbus has voted to sell the Woody’s on the Water building, according to City Attorney Jeff Turnage.
The building sits at the Columbus Marina, located near the Columbus Lock and Dam, on property owned by the Army Corps of Engineers, which leased it to the Lowndes County Port Authority, which itself subleased the location to the marina.
The site has seen a variety of restaurants since the marina opened in April 2000. It first housed Kemo’s, then Johnny’s BBQ and then, finally, Woody’s on the Water.
The building was eventually donated to the city in February 2020 by then-owner John Young of CMR Enterprises, according to the minutes from that council meeting. The minutes set the assessed value of the property at just over $1 million. According to tax records, the taxable value of the building is $180,330. In 2020, before being handed over to the city, the last tax payment was $4,711.
Turnage said the city had been trying ever since to find a buyer, including working with the Columbus Redevelopment Authority and Ward 5 Councilman Stephen Jones, who is a Realtor.
“We talked to someone right before the pandemic hit who had some interest,” Turnage said. Although the prospect “fell off the radar” when the pandemic hit, they were still interested and the city was able to work with them again.
Turnage, who identified the buyer as Thomas Genin of Ajax LLC, said the city had agreed to sell the building for $300,000.
“That’s a $300,000 profit for the city,” Turnage said.
Genin intends to open a restaurant and sell seafood, Turnage said.
Genin is the owner of The Blind Tiger, an open-air bar and restaurant with multiple locations on or near the Gulf Coast.
Genin did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Turnage said that the Lowndes County Port Authority would have to sign off on the deal, as well as the Army Corps of Engineers. He said he didn’t foresee a problem with either.
Turnage said the buyer wants to close the deal by the end of February.
Port Authority Director Will Sanders agreed that it would likely be smooth sailing with the port.
“I look forward to it,” he said. “We’ll work with them on any agreement. That is too nice a building and too good a location to just sit there.”
Sanders did not remember when the building was last used.
“I’ve been here since 2014 and it was closed when I got here,” he said.
Columbus Marina Manager Steve Arndt said that he was unaware there was a new business coming in but was glad to hear it.
“Being on the water, it’s a good location for a seafood restaurant,” he said. “I’m excited that they have someone coming.”
Arndt said he expected the marina and the restaurant would work well together.
“I’ve managed marinas in Florida and Texas, and it’s almost always a benefit to have a restaurant,” he said. “The restaurant drives business to the marina, and the marina drives business to the restaurant.”
He said he thought the restaurant would do well, at least in part due to increased traffic over the past several years through the marina.
“Things are slow now because it’s cold,” he said. “But we had an extremely busy summer this year and last year. Because of the pandemic, people are looking for things to do that are outside and away from other people. Boating checks all those boxes. We’ve probably had a 30 percent increase in slip rentals.”