NAPLES — Reality is slowly sinking in for Doug Amaral.
Three days after his Naples restaurant, the Mangrove Cafe, was badly damaged during a Monday morning propane explosion, Amaral realizes his initial goal of being back in business by mid-February is not realistic.
Amaral said Thursday that he has no idea what the time line is for reopening his restaurant, 878 Fifth Ave. S.
"I just know it’s growing," Amaral said.
The reason for the delay has to do with the restaurant’s location in a flood zone. If the work to repair the building exceeds half its value, Naples city code requires the owner to update the building to withstand current flood standards, Naples Building Inspector Paul Bollenback said earlier this week.
The assessed value of the property is $884,924, according to the Collier County Property Appraiser’s Website. Of that, $817,938 is the value of the land, meaning the actual building is only valued at $66,986, according to the property appraiser.
The exact cost to repair the building hasn’t been determined, Amaral said, but he’s sure he’ll have to update it to current flood standards. The west wall of the building will have to be replaced, and the roof was detached during the explosion, officials said.
"It’s the value of the building. That’s all it’s based on," Amaral said. "There lies the silver bullet."
Still, Amaral said he is committed to repairing his 20-year-old restaurant rather than moving to another location. City officials have been doing their best to work with him and keep him updated on the project, he said.
On Thursday, workers were still cleaning out the building. Amaral said he’s still gathering information about insurance, permits, construction and new designs for the kitchen and dining room.
"We want to keep all the balls in the air," he said.
The explosion and flash fire erupted around 9:15 a.m. Monday.
Fire officials believe it was started by a propane leak behind the restaurant. They’ve speculated it was ignited by a running car parked nearby, although other ignition sources are being explored.
Three people were burned in the explosion: Tom Smith, a 41-year-old driver for Bal Gas Propane, who remains in critical condition at the Tampa Bay Regional Burn Center; Donald "Donny" Kingston, a 32-year-old beer tap technician with Tap Technology Inc., who remains in fair condition at the burn center; and William "Billy" McCauley, a 51-year-old Mangrove Cafe chef, who was released earlier this week from NCH Downtown Naples Hospital.
Looking around the wreckage of the restaurant on Wednesday, McCauley told NBC-2 it was "devastating."
"I looked up and noticed that gas was coming in," McCauley told NBC-2, recalling the explosion. "You could see it, hear it. You could smell it coming in, like a big cloud rolling like from the bottom up coming from the door."
Friends and family members have talked about setting up funds to help Kingston’s and Smith’s families pay medical expenses.
Jack Tew, the CEO of Tap Tech, which employs Kingston as a subcontractor, said his company will do "whatever it takes" to help Kingston make it through the ordeal. Kingston does not have health insurance.
"We’re going to continue giving him a paycheck until we can figure out where this is all going," Tew said. "My company is a small company that is like family."
Amaral said some of the independent restaurants in town have reached out to him, offering to take his employees on as he repairs the building and rebuilds his business.
"20 years is a long time," Amaral said. "For the most part, the independent restaurateurs, we work together. We help each other."
Connect with Ryan Mills at www.naplesnews.com/staff/ryan-mills/