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Prime 239 Steakhouse

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted plans for one restaurant in south Cape Coral and upended the financial stability of another. Now, the destinies of Pan Olio and Prime 239 Steakhouse have collided.  

Pan Olio closed earlier this year at 1715 Cape Coral Parkway, near the western end of the road. The concept struggled, and the timing of opening in October 2019 just before the pandemic began in March 2020 couldn’t have helped.  

George Lukas, owner of the nearby Ceno Grille, and his team of investors intended to build a four-story steakhouse, office building and sky bar on the eastern end of Cape Coral Parkway. In 2019, the investors paid $340,000 for the land on the eastern end of the road, just west of the Cape Coral bridge, but the pandemic thwarted those plans. Then, in August 1415 Cape Coral Parkway Partnership LLC purchased the site at that address for $475,000.  

“We’re just kind of sitting on it,” said Adam Palmer, one of the partners in that investment group and a broker with LandQwest. “We love the location. We don’t have any immediate intention to develop it. We’re just evaluating what might be the best use of it. 

“What’s not to like about Cape Coral Parkway? The arrow remains pointing up for that corridor. There’s definitely an opportunity there. Is it possible that there’s something like the original plan? Potentially. That’s what we’re evaluating right now. We’re just taking a step back and seeing what the best use would be.”  

As for what used to be Pan Olio, Lukas originally intended that to be his steakhouse location. When Frankie Bernert of Ohio beat him to it, Lukas first turned toward the vacant piece now owned by Palmer’s group before going back to the Pan Olio site. After eliminating the green paint on the interior, Lukas is completely redesigning the inside, adding wine racks with a darker, more intimate look and new lighting.  

“When the investors saw that Pan Olio was going under, it helped them make their decision downtown,” Lukas said. “It was getting too expensive anyway. Our $5.2 million in construction costs there was turning into about $7.2 million to do the job. And COVID kept them out of the country for two years. That basically made up their minds.”

 Landing the former Pan Olio location made sense for Lukas, who hopes to open Prime 239 Steakhouse there by the end of the summer. In addition to steaks, the menu will have seafood, craft cocktails and top-shelf bottles of wine. Diners also can bring their own wine for a cork fee, and they will have the option of storing their own bottles in the restaurant.  

“We’re bringing high-end steak to the southwest Cape Coral,” Lukas said. “First of all, I think I’m in the best location in Cape Coral for a steakhouse. That corner of Cape Coral is the high end of Cape Coral. I’m going to stick with my guns and offer Cape Coral something it doesn’t have. Since 2008, I’ve been saying I’m going to bring a big-city deal to a little city. That’s still my vision.” 

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