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Bleu Rendez-Vous French Bistro Sanibel8766

The Vivet family’s story of resiliency began with Mari Vivet sheltering with her 5-year-old schnauzer, Blue, in the interior bathroom of her Sanibel Island home on Sept. 28.  

With her husband, Christian Vivet, abroad in his native France, and Hurricane Ian raging outside, Mari Vivet said she never imagined the storm filling their French restaurant with 4 feet of storm surge and wrecking everything. Tables, chairs, decorations and valuable kitchen equipment were ruined and uninsured.  

Bleu Rendez-Vous French Bistro, as they knew it, was destroyed. Now, it’s been brought back to life, as the new Bleu Rendezvous recently opened at 751 Tarpon Bay Road, just behind Tower Gallery on the island. The Vivets dropped the hyphen from the old name. 

“We went in and tried to save and salvage what we could after the hurricane,” Mari Vivet said of the original location off Periwinkle Way. “We knew right then and there that everything was destroyed. Everything was tossed and turned.”  

The story of resiliency continued three weeks after the storm.  

“It became obvious to us that we were not going to be able to reopen when the landlord ordered us to leave the building,” she said.  

Mari and Christian Vivet contemplated leaving what they considered paradise. They looked at moving to South Carolina, mainland Lee County or somewhere else in Florida. They resolved to stay on Sanibel.  

“It took a lot of tenacity,” Mari Vivet said. “We looked everywhere. We talked to everyone we knew. We just kept hammering at people.  

“We didn’t want to go out like that. We’re almost to retirement age, but we’re not quite there yet, 63 years old. We decided that, for the both of us, that we didn’t want to go out with this hurricane. We didn’t want that to define us.”  

The property at 751 Tarpon Bay Road had been slated to become a new Italian restaurant called Café Italia, but the owners there backed out because there were too few people on Sanibel to support the restaurant.  

Enter the Vivets, who are gambling that mainland Lee County will support the French restaurant until more tourists return to Sanibel.  

In moving into the Café Italia space, the Vivets purchased all of the new kitchen equipment already inside.  

“That helped with the supply chain issue,” Mari Vivet said. “We paid him what he paid for it. We didn’t have to worry about waiting to get the equipment.”  

With a small staff, the Vivets are opening Blue Rendezvous at 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays by reservation only. So far, things are going well, with a Saturday Trip to Bordeaux Soiree event selling out. Most entrees are in the $30 to $50 range. A four-course meal with three entree choices is $50.  

“That’s the only way we can do it because of the staffing,” she said of reservations only. “We don’t want to fool around. Minimal staffing. Minimal costs. That’s our challenge right now.”  

Christian Vivet rides his bicycle to work each day and cooks his favorite French dishes.  

“There was so much destruction and so much chaos around us after the hurricane,” he said. “What we were trying to do, and consciously, was to get back into the routine that we had before the storm.  

“The most popular item is the Seafood Vol-Au-Vent. It’s a pastry with seafood, lobster, fish, shrimp, a lobster cream sauce. It hits all of the good parts. It’s really very good.” 

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