Hurricane Ian: Storm dealt yet another blow to Fort Myers, Cape Coral restaurants

Hurricane Irma, COVID, Hurricane Ian — restaurants in Fort Myers and Cape Coral have had a rough five years, but they're doing all they can to help each other and the community.

Gina Birch
Special to The News-Press

Southwest Florida's restaurants have treaded a treacherous path in recent years. In 2017, Hurricane Irma struck. In 2020, COVID restrictions forced abrupt closures at the height of visitors season. When restaurants reopened, it was with limited capacities and a labor market that had all but vanished. 

As restaurants regained their footing, hopeful for a successful holiday and winter tourist season, the local hospitality industry was dealt yet another punishing blow. This time by Hurricane Ian.

For some, a lack of power and water forced temporary closures. For others, there is nothing left of their restaurants but sand and debris. 

Thousands of people became homeless and jobless literally overnight.

The restaurateurs who were spared did what they do best and went to work feeding those in need. Gloria Jordan was one. For days, the owner of La Trattoria Café Napoli in south Fort Myers gathered volunteers and food, distributing free meals from several Lee County locations.

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Gloria Jordan leads tours of Cuba.

On the verge of opening a new concept, Jordan’s Wine Bar & Cellar in The Bridge Plaza at 12901 McGregor Blvd., south Fort Myers, Jordan tapped that location for another food-distribution event. What happened next was a spontaneous outpouring of goodwill.

While checking on her yet-to-open space, Jordan also checked on her Bridge Plaza neighbor, Craig Komatz, owner of Cibo. The Italian restaurant sustained what Komatz called “intense damage” from the storm. Most of the rest of plaza was spared, but not Cibo's section of roof.

“Craig was one of my first motivators. I know his servers well, and Cibo is my favorite restaurant,” Jordan said. “I thought there is no better place to do something to help than here.”

Hundreds of supporters attended a Hurricane Ian benefit for employees of Cibo. The Italian restaurant suffered major damages in south Fort Myers.

Her food-distribution event quickly pivoted into a benefit for Cibo's employees. In the span of 38 hours, dozens of people rallied to gather donations. Hundreds of supporters attended the Oct. 9 fundraiser in the plaza's parking lot. 

“Gloria and I have boundless respect for each other,” Komatz said. “It’s a great gift when people rally around you.”

One of those people who heeded the rallying cry was Jay Johnson. Johnson owns Bubba’s Roadhouse & Saloon on SW Pine Island Road in Cape Coral. Still closed from Ian, his employees are also out of work. However, when asked to help Cibo, Johnson gathered food donations, fired up his grill and began cooking.

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A week later, some of the same people Johnson helped came back to return the favor. A second restaurant-relief event took place in Bubba’s parking lot Oct. 16. Donations went to Johnson’s employees as well as those from the decimated Bert’s Bar, the iconic Matlacha spot owned by Johnson's father, Bernard Johnson. 

Jordan and a host of local business owners, including MaryBeth and Chris Keslinger of Lobster Lady in Cape Coral, joined forces to help Bubba's and Bert's. They rounded up seafood, barbecue and booze donations from local suppliers, breweries and distilleries throughout the area. 

Like Jordan, the Keslingers are also on the verge of opening a new establishment, High Tide at Cape Coral's Tarpon Point Marina. The storm destroyed all of High Tide's new furnishings, decor and more. With money tightly budgeted, the Keslingers said they dipped into their personal funds to float their employees until the restaurants got back on track. 

Jay Johnson, owner of Bubba's Roadhouse & Saloon and Bert's Bar & Grill, removes pieces of debris from the front of his restaurant after Hurricane Ian passed through the region Wednesday afternoon in Cape Coral, FL., on Friday, September 30, 2022.

However, when the opportunity arose to help the Johnsons and their crews, they jumped at it. 

“The restaurant community is a tight-knit community,” MaryBeth Keslinger said. “It’s important we look out for each other, build each other up, and support our community so we can continue to be strong together.”

“I’m humbled and honored,” Johnson said of the outpouring of donations. “I am especially happy for my employees. I worry most about them.”

As for reopening, neither Johnson nor Komatz have a target date. They are in the same boat as so many people: waiting on insurance adjusters, landlords (in Komatz case), and contractors.

“I just think we all need to put our best foot forward now," MaryBeth Keslinger said, "and lend a helping hand."

For more on the restaurants mentioned, visit; and

More Fort Myers, Cape Coral restaurants hosting hurricane relief events

Buckett's opened in south Fort Myers in 1988. The sports bar got new owners in 2014.

• Buckett’s Wings & More at 6301 South Pointe Blvd. in south Fort Myers is linking arms with its restaurant brethren by hosting a series of Restaurant Benefit Nights. During these events, 10% of proceeds will go to restaurants on Pine Island, Fort Myers Beach, Captiva and Sanibel.

Those already helped include Gramma Dot's, Matanzas On The Bay, and Cabana’s Beach Bar & Grill. Next up: Pete’s Time Out (Oct. 19), Coste Island Cuisine (Oct. 21) and Smokin’ Oyster Brewery (Oct. 22).

For more on the events, call 239-481-7311, visit or

Nice Guys in Cape Coral partnered with No Manches food truck, El Toro Mexican Grill, Pure Green, Winfield Street Coffee and Brooklyn Dough With A Hole to give out free food Oct. 12. The event was organized by Instagram creator @theswfllover

Gina Birch writes about food, wine and spirits for The News-Press and at Follow her as @ginabirch on Twitter and find her on Facebook.