Longtime restaurant may not be gone forever though

Three generations of Bill Cheek’s family have dined at the Old Florida Seafood House since it opened in 1977 – his father, himself and his son. He had hoped to take a fourth, his eight-year-old grandson, but the doors closed a couple weeks ago before he had his chance.

“That seafood was probably as good as it gets,” said Cheek, a Lancaster, Pennsylvania native who spends his winters in West Palm Beach. “That’s a shame.”

His grandson may still get to try Old Florida’s popular seafood platter though.

According to Lori Cobb, property manager for the shopping center, unofficially known as Manor Gates, where Old Florida is located, the current tenant is in negotiations to find a new tenant. If a deal is negotiated, she said the new tenant may keep the Old Florida name and continue to serve the same fare. Cobb declined to provide any contact info for the current or possible tenant and The Gazette was unable to contact either party. One individual involved in the property, who declined to have their name printed, said the matter may possibly end up in court. “It’s a big mess.”

For the time being though, Cheek isn’t the only snow bird mourning the loss of Old Florida.

For over 30 years, Boots Dwyer and her husband always made Old Florida their first restaurant stop when they fly in from Chicago to spend the winter in South Florida. “Their seafood platter was always great. So were the stone crabs. I’m heartbroken.”

Some neighboring business owners, even restaurateurs, are also sad to see the 37-year-old seafood institution close its doors.

Richard Stetler, owner of The Best Cellar, a boutique wine shop and wine bar, said Old Florida helped bring him business ever since he moved into the shopping center. “It was definitely an institution. I’d have people who would make a whole night of it. They’d eat over there and they’d walk right over here. I’m not happy . . . Oh well, what can you do?”

Jim Mileto, owner of JM Designs, said he doesn’t expect a big blow but “every little bit helps . . . I miss seeing the people come at night.”

John Yang, manager at Lotus Chinese Kitchen, doesn’t expect to suffer or gain as a result of Old Florida’s closing. “We had different clientele. If they wanted Chinese, they’d come here. If they wanted seafood, they’d go there. But it’s a shame.”