The Continental on Third Street South in Old Naples reopened this month after being closed due to flooding damage from Hurricane Ian.
Owner Richard D’Amico also owns Third Street’s Campiello, which reopened less than a month after the storm ripped through Southwest Florida.
The Continental’s damage was more severe. “When we went down [to the Continental] after the storm, checked on it. There was equipment, chairs and furniture floating in toxic storm surge,” D’Amico said.
Every piece of equipment within the restaurant, including walk-in coolers, insulation and the electrical system, had to be replaced because of saltwater contamination.
The Continental underwent an extensive cleanup process, making it to be one of the final restaurants to reopen in the Third Street area. D’Amico had discussions with an engineer about how restaurants that opened too soon could pay for it in the near future.
“It’s not over yet. Probably next fall there’s going to be another wave. I don’t know how bad it’s going to be but [the engineer] said that he talked to people that went through Hurricane Sandy [in 2012] and they said the second wave was almost worse than the first,” he said. “But there was no way in good conscience that we were going to allow our employees to work in those conditions or have our guests eat in those conditions.”
Longtime customers of The Continental may notice some changes to the décor of the restaurant. One of the most noticeable changes is inside the Bull Room, which now has different wallpaper and a different style of chairs in the dining room. Renovation of both D’Amico’s downtown restaurants cost more than $2 million so far between repairs and business loss.
“We’re not 100% done, there’s a lot of things that are temporary,” D’Amico said. “It’s probably going to take us through the summer to complete everything.”
The staff at The Continental were out of work for more than three months, but almost all the employees came back to work at the restaurant. “We were very lucky at The Continental. And part of it is deserved for the way we treat our guests and the kind of operations that we try to run that we had all but one server come back after Ian,” he said. “We had all but four cooks come back, every bartender came back. We lost a few host staff and a few wait assistants, but pretty much the whole staff came back. But we told them that we’d give everybody that came back to work a bonus.”
Moving forward, D’Amico doesn’t have any set plans to open another restaurant. However, opening up a new dining spot isn’t completely out of the question.
“There’s one concept that if the opportunity came up in the right location, we would really think about it a lot,” he said. “But we already went through a growth phase and we’re looking to enjoy what we’ve built and spend time with our families and travel more. So it would have to be something really special for us to open something else.”