Rumrunners in Cape Coral welcomes Levi John for a special performance on July 10 at 1 p.m.
By HAPPENINGSMAGAZINE July 1, 2022
Levi John is a singer and entertainer who has performed all over the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and in Europe to a solid fan base.
During his former years at the world famous Sanibel Harbor Resort and Spa, he wrote and produced the song, “Sanibel Harbor Sunset.” A popular recording artist, Levi has had many hit songs to his credit. He is also a prolific songwriter. Levi’s music is a fusion of many rhythms and cultures. He calls his own brand of music Caribbean pop. Levi is a romantic crooner, and has been dubbed as the “Silky Voice” by adoring fans.
This singer/songwriter likes to give back and has supported many charitable causes. Among the recipients of his generosity are Menninger Foundation, Charlee Program, Special Olympics of Nevada and Florida, and Charity Club of Canada. Levi wrote and produced the song “If You Can Feel What I Feel,” as well as “Children of Today People of Tomorrow” for Ronald McDonald House. A signature song, “People Helping People,” sums up his philosophy. This song is a testament to what this artist is all about; his favorite saying is “It is what you give, not what you take that keeps this world as one.” Alarmed by the high prevalence of diabetes in the Caribbean, he is working on finding a solution to the prevention of this insidious disease.
For over six years he has performed in the British Virgin Islands over the winter season and return to Europe for the summer. Just before the pandemic, he did the world tour on the MS Europa, one of the most luxurious ships in the world.
“I perform a wide range of songs, popular classic year to year reggae Calypso R&B blues and jazz I’m looking for a place where I can sing and bring your very wonderful experience to the visitors and customers,” he says.
“My Music, My Life, My Song” with Levi John Live will be from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, July 10. Rumrunners is located at 5848 Cape Harbour Drive in Cape Coral. For more details, call 239-790-5786 or visit online at www.rumrunners.cc
By CJ HADDAD - | Feb 18, 2022
That phrase is the first thing patrons at Rumrunners see when they walk in the doors — and a phrase that the owners embrace.
The newly renovated and revamped waterfront dining spot at Cape Harbour has been going strong since its relaunch. Now, owners Dennis Bessey and Will Stout have brought the theme of the establishment to life.
Rumrunners is the proud home of a 1941 Fort Deluxe Coupe — the moonshine distillers’ favorite rum-running car during the 1940s and through the mid ’50s. The flathead V-8 could be “souped up,” or replaced with a newer, more powerful engine–maybe from a Cadillac ambulance.
Out back, restaurant-goers can catch a glimpse of the vessel that started it all for Rumrunners, and, if they’re lucky, get to head out on the water with Stout for a little history lesson.
A 1941 Fort Deluxe Coupe -- the moonshine distillers’ favorite rum-running car during the 1940s and through the mid ‘50s is on display at Rumrunners restaurant in Cape Harbour.
“I think it’s magic,” Stout said of having the Rumrunner docked out back. “The Rumrunner is a piece of art that floats that was built right here in the Cape.”
The new interior and overall concept of the restaurant is an ode to the Rumrunner boat, a 1949 design by John Hacker. While the original plans were for a triple-cockpit runabout, the boat’s design was modified by Naval architect Charlie Jannuce to that of a commuter. The Rumrunner was built by Hugh Saint, Inc. Custom Boats in Cape Coral for Stout. The vessel was cold molded using west system epoxy and Honduras mahogany. The Rumrunner is a 37-foot commuter powered by twin Crusader 8-cylinder engines packing 425-HP each. Stout said the boat took five years to build, and was out giving free rides to Rumrunners guests that got a one-of-a-kind-experience.
“It feels good for us when people look at you and say, ‘thank you,’ and you can tell that they mean it,” Stout said. “You can’t buy a ride on a boat like (the Rumrunner) and we don’t charge for a ride. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially for those that have a little bit of knowledge or history, or had a relative with an old wooden boat.”
Andrew Robel and his group of friends were grabbing a bite to eat before their departing flight from Florida and happened upon Rumrunners. They never would have imagined an opportunity to head out on the water with Stout and experience the ride the Rumrunner provides.
“You feel like you’re stepping back in time,” Robel said of the vessel. “Everything from the mirror finish down to the deck, you wonder how people did this day in and day out. And the power on this thing is incredible.”
The custom Rumrunner boat at Rummrunners at Cape Harbour.
While the Rumrunner often has duties elsewhere at boat shows and the like, a permanent fixture at the restaurant is the 1941 Ford. Moonshine runners were never flashy vehicles–no chrome pipes, no loud mufflers, no distinctive paint jobs–plain and dark colored cars were the norm. The 1940 Ford Coupe was favored by most for its huge trunk and its familiarity on the road, but many different cars (and trucks) were used.
Transporting the finished product was the most challenging part of the business, and in post-World War I Appalachia the solution was to be the best driver in the fastest vehicle.
A load of ‘shine typically weighed about 800 to 1,000 pounds, so the runner’s suspension had to be stiffened. Extra leafs in the rear springs, “helper springs” in trucks, and double shocks on each front wheel were typical add-ons. The police and government revenue agents often drove stock V-8 powered Fords which could catch most passenger cars of that time, but not a moonshine runner.
“It’s all tied into the theme,” Bessey said. “The opportunity became available to obtain this original vehicle. With our theme being prohibition and running liquor, it was a perfect fit. We want people to come and enjoy it.”
These additions are sure to continue to draw patrons to Rumrunners — a familiar venue to area residents but now with a whole new feel, including a revamped menu.
“It’s been amazing,” General Manager Joe Henning said of the first six weeks since the reopening. “The feedback from the customers and new menu items have gone over really well. We’re seeing repeat faces and our live music on Sundays have been a big hit.”
Robel, along with his group, couldn’t have enjoyed their first experience at Rumrunners more.
“It’s been incredible,” he said. “The food is great, the service is great, and a great atmosphere that makes you feel welcome.”
Rumrunners now features brand new outdoor dining and seating that has been lauded by those who have experienced it, with spots to enjoy a meal or drink under the shade of umbrellas and even right on the dock. Waterside seating is all made out of quartz. There’s even a kid’s area with games for children, along with a new children’s menu. Other additions include a “boat-ique’ gift shop, super-chiller tap system, and their own brand of rum.
Rumrunners is open every day starting at 11 a.m. and is open most major holidays. Live music at their new “Rumrunners Beach” area takes place on Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. Call Rumrunner’s new phone number at 239-790-5RUM (5786).
Rumrunners is at 5848 Cape Harbour Drive and is currently hiring. Visit www.rumrunners.cc.
By CJ HADDAD - | Jan 13, 2022
A popular waterfront dining spot in Cape Coral has been revamped, refreshed, and is now open for business.
Rumrunners in Cape Harbour underwent a six-day transformation at the start of the New Year and reopened last Friday, as owner Dennis Bessey and his team worked to enhance the atmosphere and experience for guests and patrons.
Bessey, along with partner Will Stout and General Manager Joe Henning have done away with the old and brought in the new. From upgraded seating and tables inside and outside, new floors, new decor, new bathrooms, kitchen equipment, menu and more, Rumrunners is ready to welcome Southwest Florida with open arms.
“There’s a fresh new look for it,” Bessey said. “We wanted to try some new ideas. We really want to just give people a new experience — offer some new foods, refresh the look, incorporate some outdoor music and special events and just bring some excitement to the area. I think people will find it’s a new first-class restaurant but will also have the comfortable, recognizable feel where everyone is welcome. We’re going to strive to improve every day and embrace change.”
Bessey and Stout, who are close friends and business partners, owned the property dating back to when it first opened nearly 20 years ago and took control of the facility from the previous operators on Jan.1 when their lease expired. In just a short amount of time they’ve transformed Rumrunners with a theme that now centers around its namesake and Stout’s own Rumrunner.
The new interior is an ode to the Rumrunner vessel, a 1949 design by John Hacker. While the original plans were for a triple-cockpit runabout, the boat’s design was modified by Naval architect Charlie Jannuce to that of a commuter. Rumrunner was built by Hugh Saint, Inc. Custom Boats in Cape Coral for Stout. The vessel was cold molded using west system epoxy and Honduras mahogany. The Rumrunner is a 37-foot commuter powered by twin Crusader 8-cylinder engines packing 425-HP each.
Captain Bill McCoy was a major part of rum running during prohibition, when he began bringing rum from Bimini and the rest of the Bahamas into South Florida. The smaller, quicker boats could easily outrun the Coast Guard vessels.
With the view overlooking Cape Harbour and dockside service for boaters, Rumrunners is a modern-day representation of a bygone era.
“I think it all came together well,” Bessey said. “The fact we were able to turn it around in such a short amount of time was remarkable and it was a team effort.”
And it’s not just the interior that’s been elevated — it’s the menu as well. Bessey said the classic surf and turf style is still a staple of their kitchen, kicked up a notch.
They have also added options such as sushi, flatbreads, and are more accommodating to those with vegan or gluten-free palates.
“It’s unbelievable,” said President of the Homeowners Association at Cape Harbour and restaurant owner Robert Knebel of the new food options and facility.
“(Bessey) went in, rebranded it, cleaned it up, is buying a better quality of food, and the menu is fantastic. The food is elevated to where it was before. It’s phenomenal. There’s new everything. Dennis took it to the next level.”
Bessey and Henning, who have been business partners and friends for over three decades, have anchored Rumrunners as a destination area for people throughout Southwest Florida and especially residents of Cape Harbour.
“It’s very convenient to have a restaurant here where you can go out and have a drink or two,” he said. “The waterfront bar seating is amazing. It’s a staple of the area. It’s a great asset to Cape Harbour.”
Rusty Ost, who was the former president of the Cape Harbour Homeowners Association, said he was waiting with bated breath for the new Rumrunners to open, and they did not disappoint.
Ost, who now lives in Fort Myers after calling the Cape home for 20 years, seven of which were spent in Cape Harbour, said he’s been a patron of the restaurant for quite some time.
“I just love Rumrunners because of the view,” he said, adding he welcomes the menu changes.
“Now, everything is new and fresh,” Ost said.
Frank “Wolfy” Wolf, who is a restaurateur and long-time patron of Rumrunners, said he had a great relationship with the previous operators, and has carried on to Bessey.
“The staff is like a family to me,” Wolf said. “It’s a warm relationship. Dennis came in and is doing a fabulous job as far as the food and has kept the staff that I’ve loved so much.”
Wolf said he ventures to Rumrunners at least four times each week and blown away with the upgrades made.
“I couldn’t say more good things about what’s going on down there,” he said. “The food has definitely improved and catered to additional tastes. I’m pleasantly surprised. The outside bars with table service are an outstanding move and the decor is fantastic. For how fast (Bessey) did it, it’s unbelievable.”
Bessey said all of the Rumrunners employees were offered a job at the remodeled site and that most came on board immediately without missing a paycheck. He said the entire kitchen staff also stayed on board.
“The community will see the same familiar faces. That’s not going to change,” Bessey said. “Some have been there since day one. We have a great back of the house and front of the house, and we look at it as one big house. I think we have a great team in place.”
Rumrunners now features brand new outdoor dining and seating that has been lauded by those who have experienced it, with spots to enjoy a meal or drink under the shade of umbrellas and even right on the dock. Waterside seating is all made out of quartz.
“I particularly love the bar seating outside on the main floor and the dock,” Ost said. “The new menu items were smart in maintaining some of the traditional standards mixed with a new feel. I intend to start going back there a lot.”
There’s even a kid’s area with games for children, along with a new children’s menu.
Bessey has also added a “Boat-ique” gift shop where patrons can get their Rumrunners swag.
Some other exciting new editions are a newly crafted Rumrunners rum and Rumrunners Ale and IPA.
Bessey and his team worked with Cape Coral’s Wicked Dolphin distillery and Fort Myers Brewing Company to create their own rum and beer selections. The best part is that it will be poured out of their brand-new draft system called a Glycol Super Chiller System, allowing Rumrunners to have some of the coldest beer in town at an estimated 31 degrees.
They have also expanded their list of brews on tap and offer a wider selection of wine, liquor and cocktails. For a look to fit the theme, they’ve added new rum barrel tabletops. Bessey said they are looking to continue their relationship with these local businesses and bring more to the restaurant.
As for why Bessey and Stout decided it was time to move on, it simply comes down to business.
“It was more of a gut decision that Southwest Florida was demanding the change,” Bessey said. “I think a lot of it has to do with the demographic shift we’ve seen. We recognized it was going to take a lot of capital that needed to be infused into the business. The former operators did a good job, though we decided (to make the change) for various business reasons. It was all a business decision. These decisions are never fun, never easy. There are a variety of reasons the decision was made.”
Henning is a chef that grew up in the food industry and has been extremely successful in his ventures.
“He is a world class chef and is a smart, seasoned professional with great customer service skills as well,” Bessey said. “It just made sense to make the move. The timing was right and we made the decision.”
It was an amazing turnaround the get the job done and open their doors once again in less than a week, and it wouldn’t have been possible without Bessey’s team that included Master Touch Installation of Cape Coral. Owner Chris Torres and his crew re-did all of the bathroom floors and witnessed the controlled chaos over less than a week of installation, working 24/7 to get the job completed.
“We all knew we had a short amount of time to get things done, and when the time came, it was like clockwork,” Torres said. “He wanted to see a new look and something fresh. As a business owner, it was impressive to see so many people help out.
“I told Dennis, ‘Look around and see how many people are supporting you and the new restaurant.’ It was awesome to see.”
Torres said all of the varying crews — from Master Touch Installation doing the floors, to boxes upon boxes containing new kitchen equipment and tables and chairs and dining furniture, to plumbers — worked together seamlessly to make their goal a reality.
“It was a challenge but it was exciting to be a part of it,” Torres said. “Everybody was working non-stop, and what stood out was how happy everybody was.”
Torres is familiar with Rumrunners, as he lives in Cape Harbour, and said, “The place definitely needed some change. And that’s what Dennis did.
“As a young profess.ional, it’s good to know we have a great place to go and have some kind of networking. Cape Coral is seeing more and more of a younger crowd and it’s good to see change is coming. The menu is great and I’d love to see people come and see what beautiful Cape Harbour has to offer.”
Rumrunners is open every day starting at 11 a.m. and is open most major holidays. Live music at their new “Rumrunners Beach” area takes place on Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.
“We hope the patrons support it and that it’s a good experience for them. Obviously they’re going to judge us and ask everyone to come in and give us a chance and see what they think,” Bessey said. “We know it’s been a staple here. We’re trying to create a new vibe. We’re going to try new things and we’re going to listening to what the customers say.”
For reservations, call Rumrunner’s new phone number at 239-790-5RUM (5786).