Williams Seafood Property Released to Family

Williams Seafood
Williams Seafood

When will Williams Seafood on Wilmington Island, on Highway 80 near the Bull River, be rebuilt? It's a question loyal patrons have been asking for months.

On December 5, a fire destroyed the restaurant. A few days later, the ATF ruled the cause arson. So far, no one has been arrested and agents are still investigating.

The restaurant has basically sat there untouched for four months. But that is about to change. The ATF has just released the building to the Williams family.

For almost 70 years, Williams Seafood has been a popular place for locals and tourists to grab a bite to eat. The sign out front promises past patrons they will be back, but the question since December has been when.

"You can't beat the shrimp," said Jane Saudder, who used to lived on Wilmington Island. Ten years ago she moved to Atlanta, but every year they come back.

"In fact, the last time we were here, we ate at Williams," she said.

She was sad to see the restaurant in ruins. But hopefully that will soon change.

Now that the property is back in the hands of the Williams family, they can start to clean up. They're going to have to bring in some big equipment to tear the restaurant down. There are concrete walls and a lot of twisted metal that will have to be picked up and hauled out.

Chatham County's Department of Building Safety will oversee the process.

"The ordinance does not give them a drop date timeline," said the department's Gregori Anderson. "We like to give people a reasonable time to begin demolition on the site."

How long is that? "We're talking probably 30 days."

Then is it time to rebuild? Owner Tommy Williams wouldn't talk with us about his plans, but Anderson said, "We understand he wants to rebuild on the site so that certainly will have an impact on how he clears the property from this point forward."

The Building Safety Department is still waiting to see the blueprints.

The Williamses say they are getting phone calls every day from people wanting to know when they'll be open again. Especially now that tourist season has started. They're still waiting to give them an answer.

Reported by: Michelle Paynter, mpaynter@wtoc.com