12300 Tamiami Trl N, Naples, FL
NAPLES — A landmark Naples eatery that succumbed to the poor economy last year is close to re-opening under new local ownership and with a slightly different name.
The Pewter Mug, now known as Pewter Mug 41, could open as soon as the end of this month.
“We wanted to bring back an icon. We’re trying to save the Mug,” said Curt Boyette, the new restaurant’s general manager and co-owner.
Situated on an island in the Cocohatchee River alongside U.S. 41 N., the original Pewter Mug opened in 1970 and for 39 years was known for its consistent menu of prime rib, steaks, seafood and a salad bar.
When it first opened, the restaurant marked the very northern reaches of Naples and was considered to be located in the middle of nowhere.
Despite growth in the area, the restaurant closed early last summer due to economic pressure. The restaurant’s previous owner, Arthur Theriault, had hoped to reopen the restaurant but the property has been dormant for the past nine months.
The new owners believe an updated menu, live entertainment and the slowly improving economy will make the location viable again.
“We think the atmosphere is better for us right now in all areas,” said Larry Genta Jr., also part of the new partnership group. “We will make the business better suit the times, with more of a lounge and the live entertainment.”
Genta and Boyette were classmates at Naples High in the 1970s and later worked together at the Witches’ Brew restaurant in Naples during the 1970s and 1980s. That restaurant was owned by Boyette’s mother, Betty Keller.
Since that time, Genta has helped open and manage several Southwest Florida restaurants and nightspots, including Norma Jeans Café and Blu Sushi in Fort Myers and Estero and Club Oasis in Naples.
Boyette was managing partner of the Seawitch Restaurant in Naples in the mid-1990s before moving to Las Vegas, where he managed the well-known prime rib restaurant, Lawry’s.
Boyette and Genta are joined in the partnership by another Naples High classmate, Pat Murphy, a longtime Pewter Mug employee. Bobby DiModica, owner of Naples Fire Protection Inc., is also a partner.
Former-owner Theriault will return to the restaurant as a host and manager, said Genta. Mike Pilarski, another longtime employee and manager, will also return.
While most of the changes to the building and dining room are cosmetic, cleaning up a restaurant that has been dormant for nearly a year has been a lot of work, said Boyette.
Until now, the owners have tried to keep a low profile in order to avoid a rush of job applicants, vendors and purveyors.
“We’re trying to do it quietly but word has been leaking out here and there,” said Boyette.
Genta said the restaurant’s strong local following and familiar name should boost business, even at the tail end of the busy tourist season.
“We don’t think it will get any busier than it will be when we open. We’ll be as busy as we can be,” he said. “We feel like whenever we open, it’s going to be our ‘season.’”
The restaurant’s Web site (www.PewterMug41.com) will soon offer instructions for employment applications, and allow Pewter Mug fans to register for updates regarding the new menu, entertainment schedules and opening night.
E-mail Pete Bishop at email@example.com.