BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Residents in Bay St. Louis are gathering, not to dwell on the disaster of Hurricane Katrina, but to look to the future of their community.
"We've got a lot to celebrate, and I really think once the rebirth begins on Beach Blvd, it's going to be explosive," said Mayor Les Fillingame.
After rebuilding the interior of the city, the mayor said it's all eyes to the waterfront, and with good reason. The city has its first waterfront tenant since Katrina, a brand new restaurant.
"It's just now the time, and we were feeling bad about having this wonderful building sitting up on the beach and having it boarded up. So, we felt like we owed it to the community to do something to it, "said Ann Tidwell, the owner of North Beach Food and Spirits.
Ann Tidwell moved to Bay St. Louis in the 1990s. She owned the building at 200 Beach Blvd, as well as the neighboring Bay Town Inn, which was destroyed by Katrina.
She said in the years after the storm she was unsure of her next step. However, the slow recovery was encouraging.
"Then, after the second year, we saw things happening and our houses were getting back to normal, and this was in the back of my mind," said Tidwell.
Tidwell and her family began work on reopening 200 Beach Blvd as a new restaurant around the first of the year. She expects it to be fully operational by mid September, but gave residents a sneak peak on the eve of Katrina's anniversary.
The restaurant's bar even pays homage to the group that monitors hurricanes. The Hurricane Hunter Bar is named for Tidwell's son-in-law, who is a retired Hunter and flew through Hurricane Katrina.
However, the restaurant isn't the only thing to celebrate in Bay St. Louis. The new seawall is nearing completion, as is the new location of Trapani's Eatery. And construction on new waterfront condos, a third restaurant and the city harbor aren't far behind.
"The night life and the entertainment quality of Bay St. Louis emanates from Beach Blvd. And, I think the entire community has very anxiously awaited the restaurant, lounge, nightclub community to come back to Beach Blvd," said Fillingame.