Dedicated restaurant manager who spent more than half his life at the Old Salty Dog passes away suddenly at 31 years of age
By Jane Bartnett
There are people who leave indelible footprints behind and continue to touch the lives of those that they knew for years to come after they’re gone. Nick Hahn was that kind of guy.
On Tuesday morning, July 11, the 31-year-old restaurant manager at Siesta Key’s Old Salty Dog was getting ready to go to work at the job he loved. Sadly, he never made it. Suddenly and unexpectedly his heart failed, and his life ended.
Hahn was the father of 6-year-old Emily; husband of Lucie, his bride of seven years; brother to his sister, 21-year-old Kristyna; and son to his mother, Lenka, and father, Jan. He also leaves behind his beloved dog Leo, a 150-pound mastiff that Nick referred to as his son.
His family, many friends in Siesta Key and Sarasota, as well as Nick’s co-workers and customers whose lives he touched during his 17-year restaurant career at the landmark restaurant are still struggling to accept his passage.
For Nick, his family, his job and Siesta Key were the things that brought him joy.
Although his life was brief, Nick’s sister believe that he had a full and happy life, filled with satisfaction and great accomplishments. “No obstacle ever stood in his way. He was living his dream,” said Kristyna. “He had everything that he wanted. He knew what he wanted, and he went after it.”
On July 30, a memorial tribute for Nick was held at the Old Salty Dog. Milo Miladin, Nick’s friend and co-manager at the restaurant, estimated that during the three-hour event some 1,000 people came to pay their respects. “It was like the place exploded,” he said. “Everyone loved Nick.”
In the fall of 2006, Siesta Key and Sarasota became Nick’s home. Although he was only 14 years old at the time, he and his family emigrated from the city of Prague in the Czech Republic. Kristyna was only 4 years old.
As the family settled into its new life, Nick became a student at Sarasota’s Riverview High School. He learned to speak English and began playing in local soccer matches.
Jan and Lenka took their children on many outings to the Siesta Key and a trip to Siesta Beach became a Sunday family tradition. As the years went by, they would travel by boat to Big Pass and spend the day. For Nick, the beach and the water called his name.
Before long, 14-year-old Nick found a part-time job at the Old Salty Dog. Owner Judy Fryer recalled hiring him.
“Although he was young and his English was limited, he was very determined,” she said. “He started as a dishwasher, then a line cook, kitchen manager and manager of the front of the house. Nick was amazing,” said Fryer sadly.
“He liked to be with the people more than in the kitchen,” said Miladin, who worked closely with Nick for all 17 years. “Nick really loved this place and all the people in it. When the college kids who worked here would go back to school in the fall, Nick would say ‘You’ll be back.’
“He had a big impact on their lives. He looked out for the kids and wanted everyone to be the best they could be.”
Indeed, the Old Salty Dog shaped his career and made Nick Hahn one of Siesta Key’s most loved and well-known restaurant people.
Kristyna also began her restaurant career at age 14 at the Old Salty Dog, working as a part-time host, server and then manager. After two years at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, she returned home to work full time. For the past year and a half, brother and sister worked side by side as managers.
“Working with Nick made my job fun,” she said. “In his mind, he owned the place and treated it and everyone here as though he did. He was the best big brother I could have asked for.”
Recalling the last day that they worked together, Kristyna said that her brother came in on his day off to help her put up new shades in the restaurant.
“He taught me everything that I need to know about the Old Salty Dog and about life,” she said. “My favorite memories of Nick are working with him. He always guided me and taught me right from wrong.
“I feel him. He’s here with us.”
It was on Siesta Beach in March 2016 that Nick and his wife, Lucie, a native of the Czech Republic, said their marriage vows. The couple recently purchased a new home that they were making their own.
When Nick wasn’t at work or with his family, he loved going to Tampa Bay Lightning games with his father. When the Lighting’s announcer came to the Old Salty Dog and brought the Stanley Cup with him, Nick posed for a photo with the trophy. That picture graces the restaurant’s wall.
“He also loved his Harley Davidson black street glide special motorcycle and his big silver teal Hummer SUV,” said Kristyna with pride.
Only weeks after Nick’s passing, the first of many difficult first days came around. It was his daughter Emily’s first day of school.
“Emily is a little fish,” said her proud aunt, recalling that only days before he died Nick had taken his young daughter scuba diving at Siesta Beach. “I will remind her of that happy day with her dad.”
A Go Fund Me page to support Nick’s young family can be found at gofundme.com/f/funeral-help-for-nick-hahn-family.