Prime 239 Planned Upscale Steakhouse in Southwest Cape Coral

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The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted plans for one restaurant in South Cape Coral and upended the financial stability of another. From now on, the destinies of Pan Olio and Prime 239 Steakhouse have crossed.

Pan Olio closed earlier this year at 1715 Cape Coral Parkway near the west end of the road. The concept struggled and the timing of the opening in October 2019 just before the pandemic started in March 2020 couldn’t have helped.

George Lukas, owner of the nearby Ceno Grille, and his team of investors intended to build a four-story steakhouse, office building and sky bar on the east end of Cape Coral Parkway. In 2019, investors paid $340,000 for the land at the east end of the road, just west of the Cape Coral Bridge, but the pandemic thwarted those plans. Then, in August 1415, Cape Coral Parkway Partnership LLC purchased the site at that address for $475,000.

“We’re just kind of sitting on it,” said Adam Palmer, one of that investment group’s partners and broker at LandQwest. “We like the location. We have no immediate plans to develop it. We’re just evaluating what might be the best use for it.

“What’s not to love about Cape Coral Parkway? The arrow remains pointing upwards for this lane. There is definitely an opportunity there. Is it possible that there is something like the original plan? Potentially. This is what we are evaluating right now. We’re just stepping back and seeing what the best use would be.

As for what used to be Pan Olio, Lukas originally wanted it to be his steakhouse. When Frankie Bernert of Ohio beat him to it, Lukas first turned to the vacant room now held by Palmer’s group before returning to the Pan Olio site. After stripping the green paint inside, Lukas completely redesigns the interior, adding wine racks with a darker, more intimate look and new lighting.

“When investors saw that Pan Olio was sinking, it helped them make their decision downtown,” Lukas said. “It was getting too expensive anyway. Our $5.2 million in construction costs turned into about $7.2 million to get the job done. And COVID kept them out of the country for two years. It basically made their decision.

Landing at Pan Olio’s former location made sense for Lukas, who hopes to open Prime 239 Steakhouse there by the end of the summer. In addition to steaks, the menu will feature seafood, craft cocktails and premium bottles of wine. Guests can also bring their own wine for a corkage fee, and they will have the option of storing their own bottles in the restaurant.

“We’re bringing premium steak to Southwest Cape Coral,” Lukas said. “First off, I think I’m in the best location in Cape Coral for a steakhouse. This corner of Cape Coral is the high end of Cape Coral. I’ll stick to my guns and give Cape Coral something she doesn’t have. Since 2008, I’ve been saying I’m going to bring a deal with a big city to a small city. It’s still my view.

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