By Fran Thompson
Eileen Mueller, the matriarch of the business that has been in her family since 1956, said she is not sure how many times she has pulled clean up duty at Pirates Cove following a hurricane. But she hopes she does not have to do it again.
“When we got back out here, I just thought ‘how many more times are we going to have to do this,’’ she asked.
Periodic Hurricanes are an occupational hazard for the bistro that sits on Arnica Bay, directly north of Bear Point in Orange Beach. The tornado that blew the roof off of the iconic Josephine landmark on August 29, 2002 was another matter.
Originally, a bunkhouse for CCA workers digging out the Intracoastal Waterway as part of FDR’s New Deal (putting young, single men back to work during the Great Depression), Pirates Cove comes by its name naturally. Arnica Bay and Roberts Bayou were havens for Civil War area pirates, who would enter Perdido Pass on the high tide and sail their low draft ships through the shallow waters of Wolf Bay towards Big Lagoon.
The Muellers, Eileen and her husband Paul Mueller, ran Pirates Cove until Paul died of cancer in 1986, at which point sons Paul and Karl stepped in to help Eileen.
Once an out of the way locals spot, Pirates Cove now attracts tourists who come by car and boat. Its staff serves up to 3,000 bushwhackers in addition to pizza, hamburgers, onon rings and cold beer on a summer Saturday.
Eileen, Karl and Paul and all available employees have been working six days per week to get the bar back open since the day after Hurricane Sally made landfall in Orange Beach. They had to baton down the hatches for Hurricane Zeta while still cleaning up from Sally.
“Putting up storm preparations for Zeta and then taking everything down again set us back two weeks,’’ Paul Mueller said. “It’s been like Pandora’s Box cleaning out the building. We’re finding problems we didn’t know we had and we’re still finding places with dirt.’’
Although the pizza ovens won’t be operational, the bushwhacker machines will be running when the bistro holds a soft re-opening, probably sometime this week.
Karl Mueller said he wouldn’t necessarily say his sixth hurricane cleanup was easier than the first five.
“They are all different, and every time we go through it, we do what we can to lessen the damage for the next time. We try to fortify it more every time,’’ he said.
Check the Pirate Cove’s social media platforms for an exact re-opening date.
Pictured: Karl, Eileen & Paul Mueller in front of their iconic bistro.