Chili’s, Gator’s Dockside submit building plans in Hernando

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BROOKSVILLE — Diners can soon add two more choices to their eating-out options.

Chili’s Grill & Bar and Gator’s Dockside Restaurant submitted building plans to the county.

Chili’s plans to build on one of the outparcels of the 20-acre parcel at Cortez Commons, at the southwest corner of the State Road 50 and Mariner Boulevard intersection.

Another new eatery, Gator’s Dockside Restaurant, is eyeing a parcel at 4329 U.S. 19, in the Lakewood Plaza in Spring Hill.

This will be the second Chili’s in Hernando County.

Gator’s Dockside Restaurant would be new to Hernando County. The sports bar and grill chain has several locations throughout Florida, including Ocala, Orlando, Apopka, Tampa and Lakeland. On the menu are grilled gator and buffalo-style wings with 15 sauces.

Robert Weinstein, project manager for Scherer Construction, said the new Gator’s will have 6,000 square feet, 1,200 of which will be in an enclosed patio.

The restaurant will occupy a former movie rental store on the southernmost part of Lakewood Plaza and resemble others in the chain, he said.

Weinstein said it will take three months to build and, depending on final approvals, could open by November.

Jerry Roberts, franchise owner of the new location, said he believes the U.S. 19 site will do well because it is in a secondary commercial area and not in the middle of the busy State Road 50 and Mariner Boulevard commercial hub.

Gator’s will compete with Chili’s and Applebees, he said, and yet have its own distinct menu fare. It will also have a full liquor bar.

The family-friendly restaurant will employ about 50 people, he said.

Roberts said Hernando County is a natural extension of the Tampa market and there may be another site in Pasco County.

“We’re excited about coming to the area,” Roberts said.

The Gator’s Dockside Restaurant website said the chain applies a 1 percent surcharge on diners’ meals and beverages to offset the increasing health care costs associated with President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Roberts said some Gator’s locations have the surcharge but the new Spring Hill site will not.

Meanwhile, the new Chili’s will sport the new look of the chain. Customers will be treated to more flat screens located throughout the restaurant and not just by the bar. There is new lighting, new seating, new wood tables, a new awning design and a new logo. The interior will also boast the new Southwestern color scheme.

The menu boasts a variety of entrees, including burger combos, fajitas, salads, barbecue and steaks.

As with other Chili’s, this site will also have a full liquor bar.

Chili’s Grill & Bar has 1,268 U.S. locations and does more than $3.5 billion in sales.

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