June may be bustin’ out all over, but it sure is busting up the restaurant and bar scene in Apalachicola.
In a memorable shakeup to downtown Apalachicola this month, one of the oldest restaurants in town, and its affiliated bar around the corner, changed hands.
Another longstanding dining spot, and its adjacent bar closed down, as its owner plans to focus entirely on food trucks and catering.
A third free-standing bar shut its doors as well, also slimming down to a food truck operation.
The first to close, and the newest of the three, the Apalachicola Ice Company at 252 Water Street, served its last beer late last month, ending a nearly five-year stint for owners James and Erin Frost. They’ll concentrate on a breakfast food truck at the spot.
Closing this month, with a huge goodbye party Saturday night, was Tamara’s Cafe Floridita at 71 Market Street, and its connected Tapas Bar. Owner Danny Itzkovitz plans to focus entirely on catering, and operating a pair of food trucks and a hot dog cart.
Changing hands last week was the 25-year-old Owl Cafe at 15 Avenue D, and its affiliated bar The Tap Room at 75 Commerce Street. Owner Susan Gary, daughter Cassie Gary and business partner Rex Humphries have turned the keys over to a restaurant group, Forgotten Coast Restaurant Group and White Sands Hospitality, that plans to keep both places unchanged.
“When we first opened in 1997, we never imagined the Owl would become what it is today. We have loved serving our friends and community,” said Susan Gary.
“It’s been a great ride and awesome run,” said Humphries.
While there have been several factors that have prompted business changes and consolidations in the community, the effects of COVID-19 have been one of them.
“COVID has changed the way people eat at restaurants,” said Itzkovitz. “And the way people who used to work in the restaurant business no longer do.”
He said that while the money can be good, especially at the height of the season, the tightened job market has opened other opportunities for wait staff and other service workers who sometimes must endure impoliteness from unhappy customers.
“People realized they can make money working other jobs in a better work environment and not get treated like trash,” said Itzkovitz.
The Times will be releasing stories from these restaurants as part of a limited series in the coming days.