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New North Fort Myers restaurant says it's an upscale dive bar from Sanibel Island

Cheeks at Sunset Harbor opened in December of 2023
Cheeks NFM
Posted at 6:31 PM, Jan 12, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-12 18:48:29-05

NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla. — Cheeks, a bar and grill located at Sunset Harbor in North Fort Myers opened its doors back in December after the owners' previous location was destroyed by Hurricane Ian on Sanibel Island.

Sean Donnelly, one of three owners sat down with Fox 4's Colton Chavez to talk about their path to reopening further inland.

“I have been shooting it as an upscale dive bar, you can come in bring your fam bring your pups,” said Donnelly.

The three owners are, Sean Donnelly, Eve Alves, and Jason Polly.

The trio may not be family, but they have stuck together through it all, including when they lost their restaurant, The Tipsy Turtle, on Sanibel Island during Ian.

“I work for a roofing company too so I was driving on Sanibel a lot and driving by, the turtle and seeing it in its state was a rough one," said Donnelly.

A rough time for Eve Alves, that eventually led to the start of Cheeks.

“As the weeks went by and months went by, it transformed itself into what you see today,” said Alves.

On Friday, Jason Polly said what you see today is a restaurant that’s been open for just over a month and has been welcomed by a community that he said, knows what it’s like to lose everything to Hurricane Ian.

“Families communities everyone is coming out to show that support because they know that everything was taken away,” said Polly.

This is a reality for many barrier island businesses, Fox 4 has seen moving inland.

Sharon Woodberry, the Economic and Development Officer for the City of Cape Coral spoke with Fox 4 about the trend in businesses moving further inland.

"The economy has shifted to the interior islands right now because there is so much that is still damaged and still needs to recover," said Woodberry.

Seen first-hand by Eve Alves.

“ Even though we are on the water it's just more cost-effective for us as a business to be able to thrive and be successful,” said Alves.

It's a feeling, Sean Donnelly said they are glad to have back.

“I think the first weekend we were open me and Eve were standing by the kitchen and the place was just going off, it's just, you kinda get a little, someone’s cutting onions in here, ya know," said Donnelly.

Click here to connect with Cheeks.