It’s been a fixture on Tybee for more than two decades, not only for food fans who live in Tybee but many in Savannah and even around the country and the world. “North Beach Grill put Tybee on the map in terms of food,” says longtime customer Michael Pappas.
But now Pappas and many other regulars are worried. The operators may lose their lease. The restaurant building is city owned and sits on city land, although over the years, the operators have paid for many improvements including enlarging the facility early on and a couple of years ago, new outdoor decks were built along with other improvements.
It was about 23 years ago that George Spriggs approached several people on the Tybee City Council asking to lease the property. At that time, it was just a shack, literally.
“Big George turned it into a popular place for locals and tourists and built a name for the restaurant based on great cuisine,” says Rob Frame who has been the restaurant manager for ten years. “George is an icon on the Island. He has put in time and effort and money and he believes in the quality of food. We have a big local following.”
“There would be a lot of broken hearts if this place disappeared and there’s right and wrong and losing the North Beach Grill is wrong,” says Pappas.
Eric Dunn echoed the sentiment. He worked for Big George in college and has been coming back to eat and hang out for the past fifteen years. “A lot of us are devastated that this might change. This place wouldn’t be the same without this vibe and great food.”
Of course the issue isn’t losing the actual place so much as losing the person who has influenced its direction for so long. Many love Big George as much as they love eating and hanging out.
“George does so much for the community as well,” said Frame. “He’s always willing to hold a fundraiser for someone in need or to offer a donation. This is community and this is a family restaurant. I get a little sentimental because Big George is like my best friend and brother and we’ve been here forever.”
“I’m upset for him for us, for the culture on Tybee and for the entire community is all this changes,” says Pappas.
Many in the community plan to attend the Tybee City Council meeting Thursday as the council considers what to do next. “I would like everybody to show up and say that the direction they may be leaning in right now is not the correct decision. You know, it’s not a business thing, it’s a Tybee thing.”