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Downtown Fort Myers restaurants work to recover after Hurricane Ian

'Words cannot describe what it looked like,' restaurant owner says of storm damage
A worker at Mason's Famous Lobster Rolls in downtown Fort Myers clean up damage from Hurricane Ian on Oct. 5, 2022.jpg
Posted at 11:20 AM, Oct 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-06 11:21:49-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — There are signs of downtown Fort Myers coming back to life one week after Hurricane Ian devastated the city.

Some restaurants are back open, some are trying to open, while others have a long way to go.

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"It feels great. It was a relief, to be honest," said chef Brent Gauthier at Buzzeez.

Gauthier is in his happy place at the restaurant, back to serving food.

"It was all over this floor completely," Gauthier said.

Gauthier's restaurant on Lee Street had about five inches of water from Hurricane Ian. He's one of the lucky ones.

"We had to come in right after the storm. Dropped everything at the house and came here to make sure our baby was taken care of," Gauthier said.

As you move through downtown Fort Myers, the signs of Ian's wrath are everywhere. Debris and memories are pilled up along the street.

"We lost pretty much all the food," said Dominick Chiuchiolo, the owner of Mason's Famous Lobster Rolls.

The staff at Mason's is trying to get back on track.

"Words cannot describe what it looked like when we first walked in here," Chiuchiolo said.

Chiuchiolo shared video of Mason's, right after the storm brought 18 inches of water into the restaurant.

Damage from Hurricane Ian inside Mason's Famous Lobster Rolls in downtown Fort Myers on Sept. 29, 2022.jpg
Damage from Hurricane Ian inside Mason's Famous Lobster Rolls in downtown Fort Myers on Sept. 29, 2022.

"It’s tough, but emotions have to wait until later," Chiuchiolo said. "We came here and immediately started to work. We can’t worry about it right now. We have to worry about that kind of damage later."

Because Chiuchiolo knows how good it will feel to welcome customers again.

"We’ll rally and get back open and start serving lobster soon," Chiuchiolo said.

Some restaurant owners said they're very worried about what all the damage will mean for season this year, which usually starts pretty soon.

Chiuchiolo said that's what usually sustains business for the upcoming year, so he's hopeful that business doesn't get washed away.

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