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Q: Is the Publix in Naples Town Centre open now? It doesn’t appear to be, but there was an article in the paper that said, “Pours are located inside the Naples Towne Centre at 3815 Tamiami Trail E., Naples,” making it sound like it is open. — Christie Domenick, Naples   

A:The long-awaited Publix supermarket in Naples Towne Centre South is scheduled to open Dec. 1, introducing Southwest Florida to its first Pours bar. “This is a beverage area that features locally roasted coffee, wine, beer and kombucha on tap, acai bowls and smoothies that customers can enjoy while shopping in-store or relaxing in the venue,” said Lindsey Willis, media relations manager for Lakeland-based Publix Super Markets Inc.  

Although the new East Naples location is smaller than the average Publix store, it will be the fifth traditional Publix store with a Pours. This in-store sip-and-shop feature at the front of the Naples-area store is similar to what was offered when it was Lucky’s Market. Lucky’s Market closed in February 2020 after operating for only four years.  

The Pours prototype concept was borrowed from Publix’s health-forward GreenWise Market. Its only other locations so far are at select Publix supermarkets in Clermont, Orlando, Ormond Beach and St. Augustine. In a Lucky’s Market bankruptcy deal two years ago, Publix paid $11.5 million to assume the leases of five Florida stores that Lucky’s had operated.  

Seven stools line a bar area at Pours where patrons can place orders for hot and cold drinks. Additional seating is available at tables and a banquette bench in a café setting. Promoting Pours on its website, Publix says the cafe has draft beer in pints or flights and premium teas and coffees such as a cappuccino, iced lattes and nitro cold brews. Iced peppermint matcha is available for a limited time during the holidays.  

Publix Liquors will use the same adjacent retail space that sold Lucky’s wine and spirits through a separate entrance on the northwest corner of the property. In addition to Pours, departments for the new 38,626-square-foot Publix include bakery, deli, produce, seafood, meats and cheeses, floral, pharmacy, wine, and beer. Rather than its customary location along the edge of the store, the deli area will be a service island between the produce and meat departments. The prototype store also is expected to have a mezzanine and some self-checkout lanes. 

Denny’s returning 

Q: What’s going on with the Rib City on the East Trail? — Julian Acosta, East Naples 

A: In the same retail center where the new Publix is opening next week, a multiple-unit franchise operator of Denny’s restaurant chain signed a lease for Rib City’s former freestanding location in Naples Towne Centre South, confirms Luli Cannon, vice president of leasing for RMC Property Group, owner of the retail center on U.S. 41 East in East Naples.  

Denny’s is targeted to open next spring, locally rekindling a national casual dining concept that hasn’t operated in the Naples market for more than 15 years. Although three Denny’s restaurants do business in Lee County, Collier County’s only location closed in early 2007 after operating for more than 15 years at 3350 U.S. 41 N. The old Denny’s sat vacant for nearly three years until it found new life as Blueberry’s, a homestyle restaurant that has operated there since December 2009.  

The new Denny’s in East Naples will be the first in Southwest Florida for West Palm Beach-based RREMC Restaurants, the third largest Denny’s franchisee in the nation. RREMC operates about 35 restaurants in Florida, Georgia and Virginia, including 18 Denny’s in Florida.  

Cannon said that Fort Myers-based Rib City permanently closed its East Naples location in the summer of 2020 after operating for more than 20 years in a space previously known as Wag’s casual restaurant. Ironically, Walgreens modeled its Wag’s restaurant chain in the 1970s and ’80s after locations such as Denny’s, which operated 24/7 to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.  

Primarily known for its Grand Slam Breakfast with two each of buttermilk pancakes, eggs, bacon strips and sausage links, Denny’s operates more than 1,700 restaurants in many countries. The American diner-style restaurant chain is open every day, including Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. 

No sale 

Q: Is there any truth to the rumor floating around North Naples claiming that The Turtle Club restaurant and the Vanderbilt Beach Resort have been sold to The Ritz-Carlton Residences/One Naples and that it will be converted into a private beach club to provide an elevated beach access experience to the Ritz-Carlton Residences owners? — Don S., North Naples 

A: The owners of The Turtle Club restaurant and the Vanderbilt Beach Resort deny the veracity of persistent rumors regarding the sale of their North Naples beachfront properties to Stock Development, which is developing the Ritz-Carlton Residences Naples across Vanderbilt Drive from the longtime resort and restaurant.   

“There’s been no talk of that,” said Peter Tierney, who is a 50/50 partner in The Turtle Club business, one of Naples most popular restaurants, with Michael D. “Mick” Moore, who owns the restaurant’s real estate, Vanderbilt Beach Resort, with his father, Michael J. Moore. “At this point, they have no intention of selling the building.”  

Moore also dispels the inaccurate information circulated since Nov. 1, when Stock Development announced rebranding its controversial One Naples project as The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Naples.  

“The rumors are not true,” Moore said. “Every chance I get I’ve been dispelling the rumors, but I understand that sometimes they’re not so easy to dispel.” 

Moore denies the misperceptions and looks forward to the future of his resort and its beachside restaurant, both temporarily closed because of damage from Hurricane Ian.  

“We have not sold. We are not planning on selling,” he said. “We’re planning on rebuilding the restaurant and reopening in the summer or early fall of next year.”  

Since the devastating storm made landfall, the resort’s staff has cleaned up the property, assessed the damage and started repairs. In a video posted over the weekend on Turtle Club’s Instagram page, Moore said the property has “made a ton of progress,” evolving from a destruction site to a construction site in less than 60 days.  

The plan is to reopen the hotel by Jan. 15, but its restaurant will have to sit out this season. “Because it suffered more significant damage, we do not believe that we will be able to reopen The Turtle Club restaurant until late summer or early fall of 2023,” the resort’s website reports.  

Meanwhile, unrelated construction has begun on Stock’s high-end redevelopment project across the street at Vanderbilt Beach Road and Gulf Shore Drive. The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Naples, will feature a collection of 128 condominiums in two high-rise towers and three mid-rise buildings near The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, beach resort. Naples-based Stock is using the brand’s prestigious trademarked name under a license from Ritz-Carlton, but The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Naples, is not owned or being developed or sold by The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. or its affiliates. 

Happy Thanksgiving! 

The “Tim Aten Knows” weekly column answers local questions from readers at Follow Tim Aten on social media: @TimAtenKnows on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.  

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