Wednesday night La Ola restaurant owner Thomas Houghton welcomed about 100 of his friends to his new location in Bell Tower at the corner of Daniels Boulevard and 41. It was a private gathering of mostly Fort Myers Beach people sampling the menu and chit-chatting about their piece of paradise.
The new restaurant has been in the works for months. La Ola in Times Square on Fort Myers Beach was completely demolished by Hurricane Ian. Houghton does not own the property that was home to the restaurant and, eight months later, nobody has any idea what will happen to Times Square.
There hasn’t been a single organized meeting to discuss the future of the popular downtown destination. In addition to several property owners in the mix, the town owns the walkway that runs through the property and Lee County owns the destroyed pier and Lynn Hall parking lot. In other words, a lot of people have to agree on how to move forward. Lee County has not given any indication that they even have a target date to start repairing the pier.
Since the storm destroyed Times Square, Houghton has done everything he can to keep that area alive. He started out with a single food truck in the immediate aftermath of the storm and has since added several large trailers with a full-service bar and a small stage for live music.
The slowness of the rebuild, along with the uncertainty of how much that rebuild will cost, is leading to some property owners selling (Pete’s Time Out) and others opening up new restaurants off the island (Mango Rita’s and La Ola). The new La Ola location in Bell Tower is expected to open to the public in the next few days to a week.