Gino’s Surf is set to return in 2024, nearly a decade after it closed in 2015.

Gino’s Surf is set to return in 2024, nearly a decade after it closed in 2015.

Photo by Dean Vaglia

Lakeside restaurant gears up for ’24 reopening

By: Dean Vaglia | Mount Clemens-Clinton-Harrison Journal | Published November 8, 2023


HARRISON TOWNSHIP — Those who have lived along and visited Lake St. Clair’s coast are familiar with the name Gino’s Surf.

Perhaps they visited the original Lakeview Inn after a long day on the water, or maybe they were regular guests at the post-1971 restaurant and event hall.

“It’s always been a cool place,” Harrison Township Supervisor Ken Verkest said. “It’s a beautiful location. I’ve attended a number of weddings and events there, and in later years the tiki bar was really certainly a popular spot on the right summer nights.”

In recent years, however, the name Gino’s Surf has recalled countless posts on local Facebook pages looking at the Jefferson Avenue property for any sign of life. After seven long years of waiting, those looking for another drink and dish at Gino’s will get their wish. The new management of Gino’s Surf aims to open in March 2024.

Leading the return of Gino’s Surf is Brian Jeffries, an eight-year resident of the township who first made his name spinning vinyl as DJ Godfather. Jeffries’ career steadily brought him up from DJ talent to promoter to venue operator. He is currently involved with several venues around Detroit including The Annex Detroit nightclub, Love & Tequila, 3Fifty Terrace and the Brass Rail pizza bar.

“What I love about being in (Harrison Township) is that I love how there are a lot of different places that have their own identity,” Jeffries said. “I’m such a fan of a lot of restaurants in the area and I go to each restaurant for their own unique specialty, and we’re going to have our own identity as well. I’m really excited to bring this concept and identity to the area because there is nothing like it.”

In order to make Gino’s Surf a unique spot on Lake St. Clair, Jeffries is pulling from his nightclub experience to create what he calls an “elevated sports bar” concept. The redesigned interior includes 48 television screens. A DJ booth will be added — which Jefferies plans to perform at — along with light show equipment to facilitate nightlife activities on weekends.

“It’s a whole completely different atmosphere,” Jeffries said. “Just the bells and whistles we’re putting in it … there’s not going to be anything like it on the lake. Coming from a nightclub background, I try to make my venues downtown have more production and more fun and wow factor than any of the other places downtown, and we’ve achieved that. So now my goal is to achieve a different, elevated experience on the lake that none of the other places offer.”

One of the more traditional aspects Jeffries plans to include is 20-30 slips to accommodate boaters looking to dine ashore.

The menu at the new Gino’s Surf will be overseen by executive chef Stewart Fox, owner of Detroit Catering Company and formerly Sugarr Donuts, in Woodhaven.

The banquet hall will also return, now operating under the name Vista Lago, which means “lake view” in Italian.

“We wanted to give the banquet hall its own identity,” Jeffries said. “It’s going to be very upscale — very classy.”

Jefferies initially got involved in the Gino’s Surf project around the time the new ownership group purchased the restaurant property about five years ago. Plans were made to open up around 2020, but COVID-19 work stoppages and the subsequent material shortages kept the restaurant closed for three more years.

“When you do a project the size of Gino’s there’s always going to be speed bumps,” Jeffries said. “If someone told you, ‘I’m going to build this from A to Z and be done with it in 10 months,’ they’re lying to you. They just don’t know. There’s always going to be speed bumps, no matter what you do.”

The long vacancy of the Gino’s Surf property created a number of issues with the building that had to be remedied before work could truly begin.

“I saw comments from people (saying), ‘The new owners haven’t done anything with this spot,’ and they have no clue how just from a structure standpoint and things you don’t see aesthetically, the things that we had to do just to get the place up to speed, just to remodel it,” Jeffries said.

Jeffries aims to have construction wrapped up by the holiday season and for staff training to begin in early 2024.