The Turtle Club in Naples Reopening in Early 2024

The Turtle Club, a beachfront fine dining restaurant a part of the Vanderbilt Beach Resort, suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Ian in 2022, but with help through community, staff, and construction, the Naples institution has been able to repair and rebuild and is slated for reopening in 2024.

Photo Credit: Nick ShirghioHaute Living Naples sits down with Mick Moore, co-owner of the Vanderbilt Beach Resort and partner of The Turtle Club, to discuss Naples’s iconic waterfront restaurant beloved by locals and travelers alike.

Haute Living (HL): Describe your background and family history with The Turtle Club?
Mick Moore (MM): My grandfather, Robert Moore, moved to Naples in 1968 and bought the Vanderbilt Beach Resort, which was built in 1951 and was one of the only commercial properties on Vanderbilt Beach. He passed away in 1976 and my father moved our family down to Naples, Florida from Burlington, Vermont, to be closer to my grandmother. I was seven years old. My Dad took over operating the Vanderbilt Beach Resort and expanded it over the years. I grew up in Naples and attended public schools, including Naples Park Elementary School, Pine Ridge Middle School, and Barron Collier High School. After graduating from Barron Collier in 1987, I went to Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. I graduated from Dartmouth in 1991 and moved to Washington, D.C., where I worked as a paralegal at a large New York law firm for two years before going to law school at William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

After graduating from law school in 1996, I practiced law as a commercial litigator in the Washington, D.C. area for a few years. I met my wife, Diane, in law school, and we were married in the D.C. area in 1997. In 1998, my dad partnered with Peter Tierney, who has a culinary degree from Johnson and Wales and was managing the Edgewater Beach Hotel at the time, to open The Turtle Club on the grounds of the Vanderbilt Beach Resort. I moved back to Naples in 2000, and I practiced law with the firm of Roetzel & Andress until 2004, when I left the full-time practice of law to work at both the hotel and the restaurant. Since 2004 I have been integrally involved in the management of both the Vanderbilt Beach Resort and The Turtle Club. We have assembled a wonderful staff of managers and employees, and it has been a privilege to work with them to create the experience that our guests enjoy at the property.

Peter Tierney has been a great partner and is very involved. He continues to be responsible for directing the outstanding cuisine at the restaurant. With the sale of the Naples Beach Hotel, we are now the oldest operating beachfront hotel in Collier County, and the only beachfront property that is still a small family-run business.

HL: What does The Turtle Club represent in the Naples community?
MM: I think that The Turtle Club represents the finest fusion of Olde Florida and New Florida in Naples — combining a very relaxed casual Olde Florida beach environment with sophisticated modern cuisine and outstanding gracious hospitality. Most of the major chain restaurants have come to Naples, and while many are excellent, we consider ourselves to be different because we are focused on being representative of what makes Florida, and Naples in particular, special.

We try to keep things simple: focusing on Olde Florida design, outstanding seafood and steaks, a simple and relaxed beach atmosphere, and outstanding hospitality. When you are dining with us, you feel like you are in Naples, not Miami, Chicago, or New York. That is very intentional. Our philosophy also places a very strong emphasis on hospitality and authenticity. We believe that true hospitality is a step above excellent service and that it is marked by courtesy, kindness, and a genuine caring spirit.

In a fast-paced and chaotic world, true hospitality is getting harder and harder to find. So, we are focused on providing that hospitality to our guests and employees and on providing a place where our guests can relax, unplug, unwind, and rejuvenate themselves as they spend time with their loved ones and friends. People have referred to us as iconic. We hope that we are an icon not only because of our location, but also because we combine high-quality food and wine with service marked by courtesy, kindness, friendliness, and authenticity – all in a simple and beautiful beachside setting. All these ingredients are important to us and are what have made us so successful.

Photo Credit: Nick ShirghioHL: Hurricane Ian was devastating, but what are some of the biggest lessons you have learned from these challenges and any other challenges?
MM: Ian severely damaged The Turtle Club because the indoor dining space was designed with breakaway walls to protect the integrity of the building in the event of hurricane storm surge. They broke away in the storm surge, as they were designed to do, but the damage was worse than many other properties without breakaway walls. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the storm for me was the importance of surrounding yourself with a loyal team of professionals.

Our team is fantastic. Immediately after the storm, most of The Turtle Club staff came to the property to help start the clean-up process. After we all took a moment to mourn our loss, we all rolled up our sleeves to begin the repair process. And it was not just our staff. We also had neighbors and customers stopping by to help and many of our vendors also stepped up to give us a hand. Many of them cried when they saw the property. And then there were the many, many calls, texts, and emails we received just providing moral support, which meant a lot, especially in the early days when we were exhausted, afraid, and a bit dazed and confused about what to do. Really, Ian showed us the power of community. And it showed us what we can do when we all work together.

Again, it comes back to hospitality – if you treat your employees, customers, and vendors with kindness and respect, it comes back to you. Almost everyone we have worked with as we have gone through the process of restoration — staff, vendors, customers, insurance companies, Collier County, and many contractors have been supportive and helpful.

HL: What can guests expect with the renovated Turtle Club?
MM: Guests can expect that The Turtle Club will be largely the same, with a few small changes and a new interior look. We did not feel a need to totally re-invent something that so many people enjoy and that has worked so well for so many years. The outdoor seating area is expected to remain the same, but the interior will get a facelift with a new, lighter look and feel that still stays true to Olde Florida design principles. The bathrooms will also get a facelift.
And, of course, the old giant turtle shell will be there to greet visitors as they come through the front door. It was the very first thing I grabbed the morning after Hurricane Ian hit — it was still safely attached to the wall! And our focus on hospitality will remain.

We look forward to welcoming back our regular customers as well as meeting new ones. And we plan to do it with smiles – which is the best decoration a restaurant like ours can have.

HL: Will there be any new menu/cocktail items? Any new staff members to highlight?
MM: We have kept a relatively stable core of The Turtle Club’s favorite dishes on the menu over the years while offering new dishes seasonally and as nightly chef specials. We expect to bring back most of The Turtle Club’s favorite dishes because people love them. I am sure we will be adding new menu items and cocktails when we re-open, but we have not yet decided what they will be.

HL: When do reservations open and when is the opening night slated?
MM: We have not scheduled an opening night yet. We expect to re-open by the end of January, but construction timing is inherently unpredictable, and it will be very hard for us to predict the exact day we will re-open until we get very, very close to it.

We are probably not going to take reservations until we re-open because we recognize how much people value our reservations and we don’t want to miss-guess the timing of our opening and have to cancel reservations as a result. So, when we get closer and have a better idea as to an opening date, we will announce it on social media and by email to our customer list. We will likely operate on a first-come, first-served basis for the first week or so when we re-open. But as soon as we re-open, we will start taking reservations for the future. So, everyone should stay tuned for more information.

Photo Credit: Nick ShirghioHL: What’s your favorite dish and cocktail at The Turtle Club?
MM: My favorite dish is probably our iconic ‘Oysters Turtlefeller.’ They are small mouthfuls of heaven! People have told me that they sometimes dream about them! They are absolutely outstanding, and I think many people would agree that they are some of the best Oysters Rockefeller you will ever have anywhere in the world. My favorite cocktail is the ‘Turtle Club Dark and Stormy,’ which is a traditional rum drink with black rum mixed with ginger beer. You feel a bit like a pirate when you drink one – which is a nice feeling to have every once in a while.

HL: What advice do you have for future restaurant owners/entrepreneurs?
MM: My advice would be to assemble an excellent team around you and to take care of them. Plan for the worst and hope for the best. Build up reserves and savings if you can so that you can weather any storms (literal or figurative) that pop up unexpectedly on the horizon. Stay flexible and be prepared to adapt — because you will need to. Once you have done that, buckle up and enjoy the ride!

HL: Do you have anything else to add?
MM: The only other thing I would add is that we really appreciate the support of the community, and we don’t take it for granted. We feel honored to be a place where people come to spend time with family and friends. We feel privileged to be in the business of helping people connect with each other and make happy memories. Many of our guests have been coming for years, and we love seeing them return — much like the sea turtles that return year after year to nest on the beach right in front of the restaurant.

9225 Gulf Shore Dr, Naples, FL 34108