Ellie enjoys sharing her knowledge of local history with others. She has been on the Board of the Estero Island Historical Society for twenty years. In addition, she has been working with her husband, Bob, in real estate for the past three years and has an extensive knowledge of the local market.
This week, the Mermaid Club is closing for good. This iconic beach bar has been a staple in the community since the 1950s. The history of the bar, however, dates back a few decades earlier. Originally located on the beach at the end of what is now Palermo Drive, Nettie’s was a popular place for sunbathers, fishermen, and anyone else who was spending the day on the island. The restaurant was opened by Nettie (Antoinette) Pavese shortly after the Depression and was well known for serving some of the best Italian food in Lee County.
The structure was damaged in the 1947 hurricane and rebuilt as “Nattie’s Bar.” However, in the early 1950s, the building was completely destroyed. After “Nettie’s Bar” was demolished, Nettie’s daughter, Rose, and her husband, Eddie Pacelli, rebuilt the business. This time, instead of locating a new structure directly on the beach, Rose and Eddie constructed a large concrete building facing Estero Blvd. They held a contest to name their new business which resulted in a tie vote. The Surf Club and Rose and Eddie’s were the winning names, so for many years, the old Netties was now called Rose and Eddie’s Surf Club.
The business has had many owners since Rose and Eddie opened in 1953. They sold the business to Fred and Dottie Holbrook in the 1960s. Connie and Roy Amos owned the business sometime in the 70s selling it to the Van Selows in 1981. In 2009, the name was changed from the Surf Club to the Mermaid Club, and Bruce Cermack, a one time partner in the business, opened another bar called the Surf Club in the old Waffle House building. The Van Selows sold the building to TPI in 2015 but continued to operate the former Surf Club as the Mermaid Club until the scheduled closing this week.
The original Mermaid Club was opened by Dave Eldrite in 1949 in the building that now houses the Whale Restaurant (formally the Beached Whale). For many years, these two bars, across the street from each other, were favorite stops for locals as well as tourists. Many beach kids had their first legal drinks in either the Mermaid or the Surf Club. When I was growing up, my father and his friends would often meet for drinks at one of these establishments, so I was familiar with them. When I came home for Christmas vacation from college back in the 1970s, I remember going to the Mermaid for a drink and was amazed to see how many other beach kids home for break were also meeting there for drinks. I was excited to see that the same bar my father and his friends frequented back in the 50s and 60s was now a hang out for the next generation. Although I have not been to either of these establishments in many years, they remain an important part of beach history
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