It’s a different concept, a way to build at ground level in a flood zone. And it’s working for a business in Jackson County.
DaBayou Bar & Grill may look thrown together, but there is a lot of planning and permitting — hurricane straps, extra bolts and re-enforcements — behind the new restaurant in south Jackson County.
Made of solid metal shipping containers, welded together and anchored to the ground, it meets all the county’s requirements for building.
With holes cut into the base of the containers, as flood vents, the little restaurant and bar meets MEMA and FEMA requirements, too.
It sits right on the ground along Simmons Bayou in an area where elevation requirements are 10 feet or more.
And it has an evacuation plan if a hurricane threatens the Coast — disconnect all plumbing and electrical, pack the restaurant into one shipping container and have a mover with a crane under contract to haul it all off on a flatbed.
The building is substantially more solid than it looks, county building official Marcus Catchot told the Sun Herald.
And owner deShea Waguespack said it was considerably less expensive to build than a traditional building, “because when you elevate, it’s pilings, elevators, handicapped ramp and accessibility. It takes a lot of wood. Everything costs more because of what you have to put into it.”
So instead, the little bar and grill is able to offer its customers walk-up, easy access along the marina pier near the condos in Gulf Park Estates. It’s at 2411 Beachview Drive, where the old Broome’s grocery and bait shop existed.
After Katrina, that vacant slab looked horrible for everyone passing on the main drag of Gulf Park Estates, a sprawling subdivision just east of Ocean Springs, said DaBayou builder Marty McGrath. He leases the land and got the idea to build a shipping-container commercial building on the low property from businesses he had seen in Alabama and Florida.
It took him six months to get all the paperwork through county, state and federal agencies, then four months to actually put it together with county inspectors approving his every move. Waguespack opened the restaurant in June. And so far it’s been a popular spot with the locals.
It sits almost at water level and with an open concept — all the dining area is either under a tarp or out on a deck. The only parts of the business that are housed in the five metal containers are the entrance, the kitchens and a porch.
How they did it
McGrath spent “many hours doing exactly what the county wanted,” he said. “MEMA has been out here.”
“He brought us documents, it was all designed,” Catchot said. “They didn’t just go in there welding and beating and banging things together. They had a plan, and there’s nothing like it in Jackson County.”
For that matter, there’s nothing quite like it on the Mississippi Coast. Shaggy’s in Biloxi is using shipping containers for an outdoor oyster bar, but it’s elevated like the rest of the restaurant. In Hancock County, some harbor and yacht club offices and restrooms are at ground level, portable in case of storm surge, not “flood proof.”
DaBayou doesn’t have to move except the one container they haul off.
“The buildings are wide open with flood vents so water can enter and exit without damaging anything,” Catchot said.
There’s no drywall, insulation, air conditioning or heating ducts.
There’s nothing water can damage, Catchot said. When the water recedes, they hose it out and go back to work.
The roof is nothing more than a break away tarp of sorts and the shipping containers are anchored so hurricane surge won’t roll them around to damage other buildings or boats in the area. It’s not in a velocity zone on the front beach. The restaurant is away from the Mississippi Sound in a flood hazard area that would experience rising water in a surge, but not wave action.
“We looked into it extensively,” Catchot said.
McGrath’s vision for the structure came from The Gulf restaurant in Alabama and Red Fish Blue Fish in the Florida Panhandle.
Pascagoula has looked into the concept for its River Park, a low-lying area just north of U.S. 90 on the west bank of the Pascagoula River — an area where elevation could be unwieldy. However, the city manager said there is nothing in the works yet.
DaBayou becomes a shell made of flood-resistant materials during evacuation. With the steel containers, there’s very little building code left to meet. The core structures are well beyond the county requirements for strength.
Catchot said the county would look at such a concept from anyone. He and McGrath also pointed out that using it could help repopulate businesses in the difficult, flood-prone areas of the county.
The county inspected every phase of the DaBayou construction. What is designed to remain in a storm surge had to be solid.
It was a long process, Catchot said, but added the concept is intriguing and the county is open to it.
“People in other places are building houses out of those storage containers,” he said. “We would entertain that. It’s just not conventional so we recommend you get a design engineer.”
Open since mid-June, it’s attracting a following.
Waguespack, 43, said having a restaurant is something she has always wanted to do. She has another full-time job and opens DaBayou at 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 11 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. It stays open until people quit eating.
The capacity is about 50 to 60, but she sees room for expanding maybe out onto the pier and deck.
Winter is coming and she is working with the open-structure concept to come up with ways to keep out the cold such as clear zip-up walls.
It’s a collection of things people bring in, Waguespack said.
“People want to be part of the business, and it adds character,” she said. “There’s no set interior design going on.”
Exterior wooden siding from an old barn in Vancleave is purely decorative.
All in all, the shipping containers that cost less than $15,000 made a restaurant in that area affordable, Waguespack said.
“There’s no way I could have done it the traditional way,” she said.