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Business Observer Monday, Nov. 7, 2022 2 weeks ago

Naples restaurants rebuild in six weeks, following six-month remodel

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Pazzo! Cucina Italiana and Chops City Grill are expected to reopen later this month.
by: Amanda Postma Sarasota-Manatee Editor

After roughly $1.6 million in rebuilding and remodeling costs, Pazzo! Cucina Italiana and Chops City Grill, both in Naples, are almost ready to reopen following flooding destruction caused by Hurricane Ian. 

The pair of restaurants are scheduled to reopen Monday, Nov. 21.

Both had to be rebuilt due to about 3.5 feet of water flooding in each building. The cooking equipment and back coolers all had to be replaced, and each wall had to be rebuilt, the ownership team says. The floors were dilapidated, the wood used on the walls had to be replaced, upholstery on the restaurant’s furniture was ruined from sitting in water, and equipment totaling nearly $500,000 for each restaurant gained too much water to be of much use anymore. 

More pain comes from this nugget: The second Chops City Grill location in Bonita Springs had just finished a six month, $1 million remodeling project in October 2021. The restaurants, owned by Skip Quillen, operate under the Culinary Concepts umbrella along with Pazzo! Cucina Italiana. After Ian, Quillen found himself doing it all over again — but this time in six weeks. 

Although rebuilding was complicated and stressful, Quillen says doing it was essential, given the company supports 300 employees.“In the restaurant business, we’re built for crisis management,” Quillen says. 

Quillen was able to keep every employee on the payroll. “Most of these guys have worked 20-plus years with me,” he says. “They’re like family.” 

The remodel of each restaurant cost around $800,000, which he says, in theory, should all be covered by insurance, but doesn’t believe that will be a reality. 

Another challenge facing the restaurants before reopening is not getting the new equipment in beforehand. The turnaround time on ordering was 10 weeks. So now they’re tasked with “nursing the equipment along” while reopening. If a piece of equipment breaks down before the replacement gets in, Quillen might have to change the menu. “It’s going to be a poker game as we go forward,” he says. 

As the restaurants gear up for their busy season, Quillen has one more worry: “We have no idea if people are going to come down,” he says. With hotels shutting down in the area, there’s the possibility  restaurants won’t be busy during the busiest part of the season. 

Quillen remains hopeful, inspired by the community he’s experienced since the storm came through. “Everybody was pulling for everybody in Southwest Florida,” he says. 

Quillen also owns three other restaurants under the Culinary Concepts brand: Yabba Island Grill in Naples, Chops City Grill in Bonita Springs and the Saloon American Craft in Estero. Those restaurants didn't sustain any damage and reopened Oct. 4 following the hurricane.

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