Many homes, lives, and businesses were destroyed by Hurricane Ian. Some people saw the devastation firsthand, while others watched from afar.
One of the South Beach Bar and Grille owners found out his business was destroyed when he saw it on his TV.
WINK News spoke to the owners of the South Beach Bar and Grille, who said they hope to be back open by Christmas.
Amazing if you look at what South Beach Bar and Grille looks like right now, which is nothing.
The owners have faith that they’re going to rebuild quickly for themselves and for their little island of Boca Grande.
Hurrian Ian meant utter destruction as it ravaged, blackened, and eventually burned the South Beach Bar and Grille like a scene out of a war movie.
WINK News reporter Claire Galt was outside what remained of the restaurant just eight days after the storm. “I am standing at the back of the South Beach Bar and Grille. You can kind of get a better look at some of this damage. The restaurant appears to have burned down. We’re not sure why yet. It looks like an electrical issue, but this place looks like a warzone.”
“That aerial view that you showed on your first live report. That’s when I first found out, like, I just fell to my knees, and my wife thought I was having a heart attack,” said Marco Meola, South Beach Bar and Grille co-owner.
WINK News’ live report a week after the hurricane was the first time Meola saw the state of his restaurant.
“I just… I couldn’t catch my breath. I haven’t felt like that, you know, other than the family person dying or so it was very overwhelming. I couldn’t function, I couldn’t talk, and I am somewhat of an emotional person, but I’m not usually brought to tears, and that was just, you know, my life’s work done in a day, you know,” said Meola.
“I sat down on the steps. I said I gotta sit down for a few minutes,” said Bart Destefano, South Beach Bar and Grille co-owner.
WINK News met with Meola and Destefano Friday afternoon and saw the restaurant again five months later.
“It just kind of wipes away, just takes your breath away,” Meola said.
“But, you know, we wallowed in self-pity for a few days. And then we got together, and we started planning to do something else,” Destefano said.
Right now, the Grille is still in shambles. In fact, the structure is gone altogether, but that’s not what Destefano and Meola see.
“When you pull up, you’re gonna go like, ‘oh, wow, it’s back. It’s the same thing as it was before,’” said Meola.
“It’s just an overwhelming feeling that we have to get this place rebuilt,” said
They feel the need to rebuild because “If three people were sitting together at the bar, it would be a fifth generation fisherman sitting next to a fortune 500 businessman, you know, sitting next to a bartender, all three of them sharing conversations about the same things. You know, so that’s pretty iconic. And I know we said that before, but you don’t see that in a lot of places,” Meola said.
“Boca Grande needs this place,” said Destefano.
In the meantime, the owners are working out of a temporary location, Mimis 3rd Street Grill. It’s right down the road from where South Beach Bar and Grille stood. The owners said they wanted to make sure their employees had a place to work.