VENICE — The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t been kind to restaurants.
It proved especially harsh for a fine-dining establishment so hidden in Nokomis’ Triple Diamond Industrial Park that customers often shot past its entrance.
According to its menu, Chaz 51 Steakhouse chefs, “seek to excite the palate, inspire the epicurean adventurer.”
No ordinary eatery hidden in an industrial park would dare write such a description.
But Chaz 51 is no ordinary eatery. A gourmet establishment with smooth jazz and sophisticated service, a fixture in the Venice Foodies Community’s Top 10, it’s evolved over the last five years from café to bistro to fine steak/seafood house.
And, then, COVID.
“We’d been very successful,” executive chef/owner Charles Amherst said. “But this year was a different animal.”
Ironically, the restaurant that took years to attract enough of a crowd to open for dinner can open only for dinner in 2020, because its industrial-park lunch crowd has vanished.
In February, Amherst began the process of finding a more visible, central location. On the cusp of realization, his dream evaporated when restaurant dining rooms shut down in March.
“We had a great year until March,” he said. “After reopening six weeks later, we had to fight to stay in business. We have a loyal clientele, but most left for the summer. We don’t have foot traffic because of where we are. Season and a new location will, I think, solve all our problems.”
That new location materialized after a successful GoFundMe campaign, spearheaded by manager Jill Gregory, and the return of seasonal customers.
So, Amherst will slam his old doors shut on the last day of 2020 and begin moving Chaz 51 into North Venice’s restaurant-rich Bird Bay Plaza, opening Jan. 16.
The location is the 7,757-square-foot space vacated about a year ago by China Tokyo.
“That’s where the next level for Chaz 51 begins,” said Amherst. “At four times the size, it has plenty of room for my Red Hat ladies and the dining clubs of Venice, with a much better kitchen layout to deliver food in a timely fashion.”
At Bird Bay, he also enters what’s become a Venice restaurant mecca, joining the Peruvian El Chipotle, the Greek Joy’s Kouzine, La Botte Italian Bistro, Star Thai & Sushi, and Tikka Indian Cuisine.
“The landlord and I worked out a great deal for both of us, and my dreams begin with this location. The sky’s the limit from here,” Amherst said.
Chaz 51, 941- 484-6200, 103 Triple Diamond Boulevard (enter off Knights Trail Road), Nokomis, will remain open 3:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday through Dec. 31.
Chaz 51’s new location at 549 U.S. 41 Bypass North, Venice, will open Jan. 16, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday to Thursday to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday with live entertainment every day.