With five restaurants in the Wilmington area, Raleigh-based LM Restaurants began preparing for Hurricane Florence long before the storm made landfall.
The restaurant group, which among its holdings owns and operates Bluewater Waterfront Grill, Carolina Ale House, Henry’s, Hop’s Supply Co. and Oceanic, held a hurricane preparedness meeting in advance of the storm to put teams in place to handle the potential impact of Florence.
“We have storm protocols that we update with each pending storm so that everyone is aware of the chain of command, as well as procedures for closing and reopening each of the restaurants,” said Katherine Goldfaden, director of brands. “That way we have clear lines of communication throughout the event.”
All of the Wilmington-area restaurants were closed Sept. 11 to allow staff members to prepare for the storm. Once the storm had passed, Carolina Ale House was able to reopen Sept. 17, with help from team members from each of the Wilmington restaurants.
“We were happy to be able to get up and running so quickly and to provide a safe environment for people to escape the aftermath of the storm,” said LM Restaurants marketing manager Marianne Stokes. “It was a true team effort because all of our Wilmington staff were impacted by the storm and we had to make sure they were taken care of.”
Goldfaden said, “People were grateful that the restaurant was open, glad to have air conditioning, WiFi and a place to get a meal. And in return, they really took care of our staff, tipping above and beyond.”
Henry’s opened Sept. 18, followed by Hop’s on Sept. 20. Each served a limited menu for two days before being able to return to the full menus.
Because of their locations on Wrightsville Beach, LM team members were forced to wait until they were allowed onto the island Sept. 19 to assess the damages to Bluewater and Oceanic.
According to Stokes and Goldfaden, the damage to Bluewater affected several areas of the restaurant, particularly the rooms and patios facing the Intracoastal Waterway. Bluewater is set to reopen Saturday, serving in the main dining room and on the patio while the second floor and side rooms continue to be repaired.
Goldfaden expects the remaining repairs to be finished by the end of October, and the repaired space to be available for parties and events throughout the holiday season.
As for Oceanic, the damage was more extensive. While the building did not sustain structural damage, it did experience significant water damage, and does not yet have a reopening date. On the positive side, the Crystal Pier, which extends 475 feet from the Oceanic’s deck, did not suffer any significant damage in the storm, according to Wrightsville Beach Town Manager Tim Owens.
“We’re definitely taking the opportunity to make some changes to the layout of the restaurant while taking care of the damage,” Goldfaden said. “All of this will make the Oceanic an even better experience.”