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After Hurricane Irma, South Florida restaurants are getting back to business

After shuttering up for Hurricane Irma, South Florida restaurants are coming back to life. As they regain power, round up staff and receive food deliveries, eateries are resuming normal meal service in abnormal times.

“People absolutely have cabin fever. They’re coming out in droves,” restaurateur Tim Petrillo of Fort Lauderdale-based the Restaurant People said Tuesday. “We really dodged a major bullet.”

Restaurants serve a vital role after storms, providing hot food and air-conditioned comfort to storm-disrupted customers, many of whom don’t have power or working kitchens at home.

Southport Raw Bar in Fort Lauderdale reopened at noon Monday “thanks to a great staff,” owner Buddy Sherman posted on his Facebook page. The restaurant resumed regular hours on Tuesday, including “happy hour [priced] oysters all day,” according to a hostess who answered the phone at 2 p.m. “It’s crazy here.”

With power in much of the surrounding neighborhood out and many roads still blocked by downed trees, Conca D’Oro Italian restaurant in Dania Beach cranked out pizzas and pasta platters on Monday. Hungry and sweaty patrons didn’t mind paying cash because the credit-card processors were still down.

Hunan Wok 1 restaurant on Sheridan Street in Dania Beach, a Chinese takeaway spot, never lost power and offered a limited menu at lunch Monday. “We’re just trying to do our best for everyone,” said the manager, Amy Chen, as customers happy to find hot food gobbled up fried rice, lo mein noodles, boneless spare ribs, sweet and sour chicken, and shrimp with broccoli. She said the eatery froze all its meats and seafood before the storm, and the staff was relieved to find the power stayed on and nothing spoiled.

Petrillo reported no major damage at his group’s eight restaurants, with Boatyard and Yolo reopening on Tuesday and Spatch Peri-Peri Chicken on Monday. He said S3 on the beach was closed awaiting sand removal from A1A, and Tarpon Bend in Himmarshee Village still had no power and remained closed.

“Logistically, it’s a nightmare,” Petrillo said about managing restaurants through a storm. “One store has power and one doesn’t. Some staff are in town and some went out of state. You don’t know if you’re going to be able to get deliveries. All our purveyors have come through.”

Restaurants and chains announced resumption of service throughout Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties on Tuesday. Hooters, Duffy’s and Bonefish Grill restaurants have reopened many locations. Rocco’s Tacos has reopened all locations. Big City Tavern in Fort Lauderdale is open. And Louie Bossi’s in Boca Raton is open. Shooter’s on the Intracoastal in Fort Lauderdale reopened Tuesday. The Royal Pig Pub on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale is open. Eateries at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood and the Seminole Coconut Creek Casino were open.

“During times like these, customers are more understanding if you are short-staffed or have limited food availability,” Petrillo said. “They’re just happy to get out of the house and eat.”

Petrillo says the Restaurant People closed their eateries last Wednesday to give workers time to prepare for the storm and to not have too much food inventory on hand, lest power outages lead to spoilage. Reopening has gone smoothly, he said.

“We pool our staff, so even though some people are still away, others can pick up the slack,” Petrillo said. “Servers at Tarpon Bend who want shifts can work in other restaurants. We have a texting service called HotSchedules that allows us to communicate with staff.”

Storms are particularly hard on workers in the food industry, many of whom depend on tips or long hours in the kitchen to pay rent and bills. Disruption for more than a few days can bring financial stress.

Petrillo was relieved that Boatyard on Southeast 17th Street, with a canalside location and extensive patio, did not have any damage and that S3 did not take any ocean water from storm surge despite its beachfront location in a Hilton hotel. “There’s just a ton of sand out front on A1A,” Petrillo said. “It looks like snowplows after a blizzard out there.” He said S3 sustained minor water damage in the kitchen from a burst water pipe higher in the hotel.

“All things considered, we got really lucky,” Petrillo said. “I can’t even imagine what a direct hit from a Category 5 would do.”

mmayo@southflorida.com, 954-356-4508. Follow my food adventures on Instagram: @mikemayoeats. Sign up for my weekly dining newsletter at SouthFlorida.com/EatBeatMail.

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