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Beloved Sanibel restaurant set to reopen doors as SWFL small businesses begin to recover from Ian

Posted at 10:32 PM, Nov 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-29 22:40:19-05

SANIBEL, Fla. — Two months after Hurricane Ian and the road to recovery is carrying on for many.

That progress made clear by the reopening of small businesses. One business on Sanibel Island is making headway, with plans of reopening their doors this Thursday. Plans that could not be arriving fast enough.

"We have the food, we have the beer, we’re just missing the people- the energy of the people on the island.”

Inside the Sanibel Grill, preparations that have stood still for two months are moving once again.

"It was like twilight zone," says Matt Asen, owner of the Timbers Restaurant & Sanibel Grill. "I guess those were my exact words when I told people. It’s like the twilight zone out here.”

The surreal feeling felt by so many in Southwest Florida post Hurricane Ian.

“We had shingles blow off the roof and a week after the hurricane, or ten days after when we had those big thunderstorms, that got this whole area wet and it came thru the ceiling.”

Damage that’s still evident on the restaurant’s walls. Pictures of celebrities who have dined within the very restaurant throughout the years. But nothing quite compares to its regulars.

“I’ve been here 44 years and I have people come up to me with their kids and go, ‘I’ve been coming here since I was this high,’" said Asen. "I’ve had pictures with people where I’m with them when they’re this high, and now they’re this high and they’ve got kids that size.”

It’s been a work in progress for staff as old ceiling tiles get replaced.

On a typical day, the parking lot would be full of cars belonging to hungry customers. But for two months, it has stood empty aside from the occasional trailer. Something that Asen says he’s looking forward to see change, real soon.

"And that’s what we’re going to have to do- take one small bite at a time. Every day we do something and I look at the little small victories when we hang a new picture, clean up the downstairs, or we get the ceiling tiles put in or we get gas- it’s a victory for the day. We’re going in the right direction.”

The Sanibel Grill is planning to open this Thursday from noon to seven. Asen says they plan on being open Thursday thru Sunday.

If you are the owner of a businesses on Sanibel, you can learn more about the reopening process and how to obtain authorization online right here.

So far, the Small Business Administration has approved more than $1 billion in disaster relief for small businesses, homeowners, renters and non profits recovering from Hurricane Ian. That funding coming in the form of nearly 15,000 low-interest disaster loans.

Tauheedah Mateen with the Small Business Administration says resources are still available now for business owners seeking help. To apply, you can do so online right here.

The deadline is January 12th for physical property damage applications and June 29th for economic injury applications.