La Ola lifted onto trailers on Fort Myers Beach

Reporter: Asha Patel Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:

Starting Tuesday morning, a restaurant destroyed by Hurricane Ian and using shipping containers to stay open is going mobile to leave a flood zone after being cited.

The Fort Myers Beach government cited La Ola Surfside Restaurant for being in a FEMA flood zone and told it to hit the road. La Ola’s owner Tom Houghton took that literally, and those shipping containers will be put on trailers to keep the beloved restaurant afloat. The small business is going to great lengths to stay open, even if it means bringing in cranes to get the job done.

La Ola Surfside Restaurant is working with the Allan Development Group to bring two lowboy trailers to Fort Myers Beach. A crane will then lift the containers onto the trailers. Decking stairs and a railing system will be built so employees and customers can access the containers.

Houghton says he just wants to get his business back up and running.

“It was about getting my staff back to work, you know, and then getting all my entertainers back to work; they’ll want to play, and all the customers want to be here and have a little joy in their life to be back on the beach,” Houghton said. “With the shipping containers, it’s a valuable tool. It’s storage. It’s a place to have bathrooms, real bathrooms.”

After being cited for having La Ola’s shipping containers in the wrong place, Houghton says he doesn’t want to face any more challenges than he already has.

“It’s so frustrating because it just seems like one thing after another, and you just can’t win,” Houghton said. “I feel like I’ve done anything I could possibly do to follow all the right steps and procedures through this. You know, I met with all the council members, initially had tremendous support; they were cheering me on.”

WINK News spoke with Scott Allan, the president of Allan Development Group, to learn more.

“In FEMA violation for an evacuation plan. We’re in a “V” zone over here at “V zone,” which requires evacuation routes of all containers,” Allan said.

Allan is the man Houghton hired to help him fix the problem. When Houghton put the container where he did, the town cited him and said the shipping container violates FEMA’s rules and regulations. If the container is in the “V-zone,” it must be on wheels.

And so, they lifted it all up and rested it on some wheels.

“It’s just a great story for everybody. And we’re just happy to contribute,” Allan said.

But getting it all on wheels isn’t the only hurdle to overcome. The city needs to inspect it, say it’s okay, and then Tom will return to business as usual.

The Fort Myers Beach building inspector will take a look at the temporary restaurant, which hopes to open for business at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, in time for happy hour.

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