General Manager at Snook Haven, Venice

Jenny Makowski

Jenny Makowski, general manager of Snook Haven in Venice, loves going to work every day.

“Whether you’re coming from the city or beach area, both of which have built up quite a bit in the last few years, all of the sudden you hit this dirt road,” Jenny said. “You go about a mile and it opens up into this beautiful park-like setting on the Myakka River, with these incredible old trees. It is so picturesque. You are only a mile away from the city, but it seems like you have traveled back in time,” she said.

Snook Haven was first established in 1948. In 2006, the county purchased the property in order to preserve its rustic beauty. They then put it up for auction, and Venice Pier Group won the bid.

The company recruited staff members from their other restaurant, Sharky’s on the Pier, to come out and get it going. “I came out and ended up falling in love with the place, and never left,” Jenny said. “I love the scenery. Right off our back deck, gators go by, and we see manatees, turtles, birds and other wildlife. There then are those beautiful old trees, with the moss dripping down toward the water. It is so serene,” she said.

The Old-Florida restaurant draws a mix of both tourists and locals. In addition to its casual fare and craft beers, the popular smokehouse offers canoe, kayak and boat rentals so people can explore the river themselves, and offers a one-hour narrated boat tour during season.

They also have live entertainment. In the summer, about five bands per week perform, and during season that number goes up to about 13, Jenny said. “That includes our popular banjo society that has played out here for more than 30 years, every Thursday, November through May. It’s a group of about 60 guys who come out and strum their banjos. We pay them through donations we receive. But they are really just playing to keep the art of banjo playing alive,” she said.

The one thing you won’t find on the menu is snook – since snook is now a protected fish. While limited fishing of snook is once again allowed, it cannot yet be sold in a retail setting.

The best part of working at Snook Haven, Jenny said, is knowing that it will never change. “The County leases it to us, with the understanding that no major changes can be made to the property, because the river and its environs are essential to preserving Florida’s ecology. Our job is to provide good food, good entertainment and good service – and make sure Snook Haven remains a local landmark.”