In Storm’s Aftermath, Debris and Lost Business

Written By Scott Joseph On September 27, 2017

Storm chuck wagon

Hurricane Irma caused a mess across Central Florida. If you were lucky, you experienced only a lot of debris to pick up from your yard, and you were especially fortunate if you counted your time without power in hours instead of days.

It was worse for some, including several area restaurants, which are still struggling to get things back to normal.

There has been at least one closing attributed at least in part to the storm. As reported here last week, Conway Cafe, the greasy-spoon diner on Hoffner Avenue in Orlando, lost power, then its air-conditioning system. The loss of food and business added to an existing debt proved too much and the owner, Lenny Mosse, decided to throw in the towel.

Southeast 9 23 Bosch

Longtime local favorite Le Coq au Vin had structural damage to the roof and ceiling in the kitchen. Owner Reimund Pitz said the restaurant was closed for over a week following the hurricane. He estimates losses of over $100,000, including food that had to be discarded when the restaurant lost its refrigeration with the power outage. The estimate to remove an old oak tree that fell on the property during the storm was $28,000.

Pitz said he didn’t think it was fair for his staff to go without pay during the downtime. “We went into our savings to take care of the employees,” he said.

Storm HollingworthSeveral Apopka restaurants were hit hard. “With Chuck Wagon, we lost power for 11 days,” said owner Ed Hollingsworth, pictured at left. The building had partial power, he said, but it did not keep the coolers going, so he had to throw out a lot of product. There was some minor flooding but otherwise no structural damage.

A couple of blocks away at Porkie’s Original BBQ, owner Steve White was in the same predicament with partial power but not enough for the coolers. “We sat around here for nine days,” said White. “I called it in [to the electric company] every day but they were so backed up they just couldn’t get to us.”

“We lost eight days of sales and all the food,” he said, “I just wasn’t going to take any chances with it, so we dumped it all Sunday night {Sept. 17} right before they come to pick up the Dumpster so we wouldn’t smell up anything around here.”

“Christner’s Prime Steak and Lobster on Lee Road in Orlando was out for a week. Alice Christner said her business had generators, but all of the food that had been prepped — fresh fish and foods that had been thawed — had to be discarded. “Everything was a week old,” she said.

With the exception of Conway Cafe’s Mosse, all of the restaurateurs I spoke to showed resilience and perseverance. And, most notable, a willingness to help each other out.

Storm porkies

“Steve White offered anything I need, he would help,” even though “he’s in the same predicament I’m in.” He added, “As far as us here, I know the community will rally around to help us.”

Patrice Phillips of Something Fishy in Apopka did fine during the storm. “We never lost power here because we’re a stand alone building,” she said. Still, she feels compelled to support her fellow restaurant owners.

So she’s planning a series of dine-around events during October when on designated dates all the restaurant owners and chefs will visit a restaurant to show support — and give it some business.

Christner, too, said she’s received offers of help for “competitors,” and she sent some pre-booked parties she couldn’t accommodate to nearby steakhouses Ruth’s Chris and Fleming’s. “There’s a group of us that work together,” she said.

And perhaps most importantly, the customers have been supportive. “I had customers calling every single day asking, ‘Are you OK?'” said Christner.

Pitz said people were coming back in droves to Le Coq au Vin, lured in part by the restaurant’s participation in Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month (which has been extended to Oct. 12 because of the disruption).

“The regulars are really supporting us now,” he said.

We hope you find our reviews and news articles useful and entertaining. It has always been our goal to assist you in making informed decisions when spending your dining dollars. If we’ve helped you in any way, please consider making a contribution to help us continue our journalism. Thank you.

Scott's Newsletter