ENGLEWOOD — Given the double dilemma of 50% occupancy and 6 feet of distance, owner Dale Wentzel at Englewood’s Zeke’s Uptown Bar Grill had said, “There don’t seem to be any easy choices or fixes, and I don’t think people really understand what some of us are facing.”

So, he chose not to reopen the West Dearborn Street favorite, even for takeout, even after Gov. Ron DeSantis green-lighted inside dining.

Many feared he’d never reopen.

“It is very likely that I will have only one shot at this,” he’d said. “I need to make sure we time it as best we can.”

That time will come on Saturday. Wentzel had already planned a big celebration for his 10th anniversary in Englewood, but never imagined it would be as big as this.

A recent Zeke’s Facebook post said it all: “The comeback is always stronger than the setback.”

“It has been an extremely trying time,” Wentzel confessed. “(But) with the aid of Congressman Greg Steube’s team, we were finally able to secure the assistance we were seeking through the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program.

“We are thrilled to have this opportunity to reopen and believe we’re doing so at the right time. Most of our original staff will still be with us, and we are all very excited to get back to doing what we love to do.”

Predictably, outside seating has expanded. They’ve removed side porch rail seating, replaced it with three 10-by-12-foot canopy tents, and added a roll-down shade to filter the morning sun on the front porch.

Inside, there are new paint, re-covered seats, social distancing and UVC-light sanitization in the air-conditioning ducts.

For the first month or so, Zeke’s will open for breakfast and lunch only.

A new menu will serve many of the original locally sourced items, plus extras like Zeke’s Chicken Fried Steak all day, lunch specials with more tacos and salads, and immunity-boosting COVID-19 Cocktails spiked with quinine and zinc.

Though Zeke’s didn’t make the signup deadline for the Chamber of Commerce’s annual Let’s Eat! Englewood restaurant week, they’ll have lunch combos of comparable value.

Zeke’s Uptown Bar & Grill ($-$$), 941-460-9353, 115 W. Dearborn St., Englewood, will be open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday to Monday starting Saturday. Closed Tuesdays.


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