It has been three months since Hurricane Ian devastated Southwest Florida, and the recovery hasn’t been the same for everyone. Some businesses have reopened, but Big Hickory Waterfront Grille in Bonita Springs isn’t one of them.
The restaurant posted online saying they won’t be reopening because of the obstacles they’ve faced trying to rebuild.
For Big Hickory’s longtime fans, to say they’re heartbroken is an understatement. WINK News ran into people who stopped by to see if there were any updates, hoping they could return to the restaurant they love.
It’s been an important mainstay for both locals and snowbirds, and everyone we spoke with shared a special message for the restaurant’s owners.
“Thank you so much for giving us so much pleasure over the years,” said Dorian Moros, from Chicago.
“I understand their decision, but they will be missed,” said Donna Pink, from Bonita Springs.
Losing the Big Hickory Waterfront Grille and Marina is a crushing blow for people who call this area home.
“Please come back! Please come back. I can’t afford to build it for them. But I’d do anything I could to help,” said Susie Freeman, from North Dakota.
The business posted on Facebook indicating the damage they saw from the hurricane was extensive. They said a rebuild would cost millions, and with all the obstacles they’re facing with insurance and building codes, it’s something they cannot do.
All people have left now are memories.
“This was my mother’s favorite restaurant, and we would come here often on Mother’s Day. And we would watch the boats come up on the dock. We had our favorite table in the back,” said Pink.
“My kids would go on the dock and quietly fish (laughs) which they shouldn’t have. But I always remember them trying to catch fish as we’re eating dinner,” said Moros.
“It’s my dog’s very favorite! They love having animals come because the minute they see a nice dog come and lay down, they bring a huge silver bowl of ice water. And she’s in heaven,” Freeman said.
A spokesperson with the Bonita Springs Fire Department confirms they are now under contract to take ownership of the property. People we heard from want to see the restaurant come back to life.
“They could build another restaurant, but it’s not going to be as quaint as this,” said Pink.
The existing substation from the Bonita Springs Fire Department was built next to this property in 2016 and will need repairs. A department spokesperson said they have plans to bring back their marine unit here after the repairs are complete.
As for the fate of the property, an independent appraiser will look at the property before determining the best way to move forward with whatever comes to this spot.