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Rebuilding a landmark

Owners of the Cove say they plan to rebuild at the site of the burned-down restaurant. It could be finished in time for football.

[Times photo: Ron Thompson]
Charlie Olsen parks his front-end loader long enough to cook a barbecue lunch for those participating in the demolition of the burned-out restaurant.

By JORGE SANCHEZ

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 15, 2001


INVERNESS -- The Cove Pub and Restaurant will be rebuilt during the summer at its present location, its owner said Thursday.

The laid-back dining landmark, destroyed by fire June 7, will be replaced with a pre-engineered metal building that will be assembled on-site along E State Road 44, said owner Casey Wells.

"We plan to have it open in time for the opening kick-off of football season," Wells said, estimating the re-opening for mid September or early October.

He said the building design was recommended by the owner of the Clam Shack, a restaurant in Cedar Key that expanded its dining room using a similar building.

Wells said he considered temporarily taking over a now-vacant restaurant on U.S. 41 N in Inverness and reopening it as the Cove, but discarded the notion.

"That required a long-term commitment, and it would have made rebuilding this restaurant way too difficult. This way, we can just concentrate on getting the rebuilding job done quickly."

On Thursday, work crews with a crane and dump trucks began removing the charred hulk of the restaurant. Wells, Cove manager Robin Warrington, cook Little Billy and other staffers observed the effort.

Local contractor Scott Adams was hired by Wells to remove the burned building. One member of the crew, Charlie Olsen, brought along a big barbecue. When he wasn't operating the crane to load dump trucks, he grilled chicken and ribs and kept a kettle of beans going as well.

"It's like an old-fashioned barn-raising," Wells said. "The amount of community concern over our fire has really been uplifting to everyone here."

The Cove was built in 1980 and is believed to have introduced Buffalo-style chicken wings to the area. Wells said that for the first few days after the fire, many customers dropped by to express their condolences. He purchased the Cove three years ago from its original owner Kay Bell.

Wells said he intends to purchase a 4,000-square-foot metal building from Miracle Truss, a manufacturer in Minnesota.

"All that we will have to do is pour a new slab and install the plumbing," Wells said. "Once the building is shipped here, they can put it up in about a week."

Arson investigators are continuing to look into the circumstances surrounding the fire that gutted the Cove as well as a suspicious fire that was discovered and extinguished earlier on June 7 outside the restaurant. No arrests have been made.

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