“Keep them working,” was the only thing Snappers Restaurant owner Peter Althuis thought to do with his staff of about 80 employees since the storm. It’s taken a bit of creativity to find ways to keep his staff intact and stable two months removed from the Keys’ most significant storm since Hurricane Donna.
“The future is bright; it’s gonna be big,” said bartender Kirk Weatherly. “After I saw the pictures of the storm, he was the first guy I texted the next day. The next morning at 6 in the morning, I went, ‘Hey man, I saw the pictures. We can do this again. We can start over. We’ll start out with the grill and two coolers and we’ll make this happen. He said ‘it’s game on.’”
Almost immediately they began. First the crew cleaned up the remnants of the restaurant and demolished Turtle Club and moved it to their parking lot across the road. There was a lot of rubble; it filled the entire lot from front to back; it took 160 truckloads to make it vanish, said Althuis.
The attention then turned to service. Even with a decimated dining floor and kitchen, the remaining half of the outside bar and mobile food truck still bustle furiously to prepare and serve the current “Irmageddon menu.” It’s all a part of the restaurant’s “be good, do good,” mantra of service. Executive chef Camellien Octela Jr. and his crew have epitomized the attitude needed to make the most out of a tough situation. More importantly, they are working and are probably looking forward to the restaurant’s new kitchen.
Along with continuing food and bar service and starting t-shirt sales to keep staff working, Althuis organized a fundraiser that successfully raised more than $7,000 for his employees. On a separate occasion a longtime member of the restaurant’s Turtle Club kindly gave $4,600 to help staff.
“We’re a big family here, man. Everybody here is tight. A lot of people have been here a long time. I’ve been here 17 years,” said Weatherly. “Everyone knows each other, everyone takes care of each other.”
Now a literal shell of its former self, Snappers is trying to complete construction on its new look before the New Year arrives. “You know me, I’m very pragmatic,” said Althuis of his plans with the restaurant moving forward, adding that the time is right to make improvements to the layout, equipment and interior design.
With a background in construction and development, he also understood the need to hire local labor, bringing on Rex Air air-conditioning, Heath Townsend Plumbing & Septic, Monroe County Fire Equipment, and R. Hendrix Construction to name a few.
Forever internet famous for his colorful choice of words on live air (check out his CNN interview with Bill Weir before Irma arrived), Althuis capitalized on his innocent slip up and made some hilarious shirts to immortalize the joke. The shirts are just another way to keep his people motivated – and laughing.