Flooded downtown streets and high winds didn’t dissuade Punta Gorda restaurant owners and managers from opening their doors as soon as they could.
“This isn’t our first rodeo,” said Patti Allen, general manager of Fishermen’s Village, which was open and operating Thursday, a day after Hurricane Idalia brushed Charlotte County.
From the looks of flooded streets in downtown Punta Gorda on Wednesday, it was difficult to imagine that a day later most of its restaurants would be open and serving, with business as usual.
Dean’s South of the Border, 130 Tamiami Trail in Punta Gorda, had some water intrusion, but it was quickly squeezed out, and on Thursday the first patrons of the day were enjoying their meals, said spokesperson Alena Hawkshead.
Owner Dean Stainton also owns Hurricane Charley’s Sushi, Raw Bar & Grill, 300 West Retta Esplanade, across U.S. 41 from Dean’s and next to the damaged Punta Gorda Waterfront Hotel.
Although Charley’s, named after Hurricane Charley, which hit Punta Gorda in 2004, didn’t suffer flooding from Idalia, a fire marshal’s inspection on Thursday discovered there was a leak in an electrical panel, Hawkshead said.
The situation was being remedied and the restaurant was expected to open as soon as repairs were made.
Perhaps the veteran of hurricanes and longest survivor in the downtown area is Celtic Ray Public House on Marion Avenue and the corner of Nesbit Street.
It survived Hurricane Charley, which destroyed half of the original building, then went through Irma in 2017, Ian in 2022, and now Idalia.
Owner Kevin Doyle, who opened the Ray in 1997, now runs it with his son, co-owner Max Doyle.
“We are used to being flooded every rainy season,” Max Doyle said. For that reason, the Ray was well-prepared, it was business as usual.
While the streets were still flooded, one couple posted on Facebook that they were enjoying the Ray’s “waterside dining.”
Nearby at 121 East Marion Ave. is The Perfect Caper, owned by James Beard Foundation’s award-winning chef Jeanie Roland. She posted on her Facebook page that the restaurant was undergoing cleanup and would open Friday.
Roland is a celebrity chef, having beaten Bobby Flay on his reality TV show, and she has authored two cookbooks.
River City Grill and Italia sit side by side at 131 and 127 West Marion Ave., which is Punta Gorda’s restaurant row.
Bartender Drew Owens said the restaurants had no water intrusion from Idalia and were operating at their usual hours Thursday.
Leroy’s Southern Kitchen and Bar in Sunloft Center on the corner of West Marion Avenue and Sullivan Street, was closed on Wednesday but open Thursday.
Also in Sunloft Center on the opposite corner of West Marion Avenue and Taylor Street, is F.M. Don’s, which remained open on Wednesday, a hostess confirmed.
Isabel and Annabel’s Mexican Restaurant, 201 West Marion Ave., also in the Sunloft Center building, was open on Wednesday when downtown streets flooded.
The kitchen was busy on Thursday at lunchtime.
Toula’s Greek restaurant, 119 West Marion Ave., had a “little bit of water” that got into the eatery, confirmed a server, saying it closed Tuesday and Wednesday, but was open and serving on Thursday.
Toula’s is open at 10:30 a.m. and closes at 8 p.m.
Downtown Gatorz Bar & Grill across town at 502 King St. opened Wednesday, a server confirmed.