BRADENTON -- R.J. Gator's Florida Sea Grill & Bar, one of the most anticipated restaurant revivals in Bradenton in a long time, will be ready to open Nov. 18.
The return of the restaurant is certainly creating buzz in the community, owner Mike Parry said Tuesday while inside the restaurant. The restaurant, 6100 Cortez Road, is now hiring and already has more than 300 applicants for 75 jobs, he said. (No interviews will be done this Friday, and none Sundays.)
Parry, along with his wife Darla, and children, are making a go of the restaurant. Parry is the original proprietor of the restaurant and acquired the rights to open up R.J. Gator's once again. The only other surviving R.J. Gator's is in The Villages and Hurst, Texas, a suburb of Fort Worth.
The Jupiter-based chain started in 1986 and expanded throughout Florida and had locations in North Carolina, Texas, Pennsylvania and Louisiana, reaching a peak of about 30 locations. The com
pany went bankrupt though and all-corporate owned restaurants shut down in 2008. A lien on the Sarasota location was tied to the Bradenton restaurant, so when that location closed, the Bradenton one went with it despite being successful.
A lot of work has been done to the Cortez Road restaurant space, most notably the exterior. At the same time, the Parrys have a long way to go to get the dining room ready for opening day.
The exterior now has a nice Everglade-type green replacing the faded coral blue. Workers were preparing two large postcard placards for the front of the building with one saying "Bradenton" and the other "Everglades."
Inside is still mainly dark, but progress can be seen on the bar, which had to be rebuilt after vandals broke through the ceiling above while the restaurant was vacant. The seating, lighting and accessories are still being worked on, and Parry is in the midst of getting his 21 HDTVs in order to hang.
The restaurant will keep its fans updated now that Gator's has a Facebook fan page. Search "R.J. Gator's of Bradenton" on Facebook to find the page. The page was just launched Sunday night and has more than 400 fans as of Wednesday afternoon.
Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.