Beaufort's Olive Garden/ Red Lobster restaurant closes

rlurye@islandpacket.comMay 3, 2014 

Beaufort residents will have to take their breadstick cravings across the Broad River after a combination Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurant closed Saturday.

The Boundary Street business, which opened in January 2012, was one of two combination storefronts shuttered after Florida-based company Darden Restaurants decided to separate from Red Lobster, spokesman Rich Jeffers said Saturday. The other was in Thomasville, Ga. The company announced it would sell or spin-off the seafood restaurant in December but has not finalized its plans, Jeffers said.

Four other hybrid restaurants, including two in Georgia, will be converted to Olive Gardens.

That wasn't feasible in Beaufort, Jeffers said.

"Conditions change," he said. "We just didn't feel like we'd be able to successfully operate a standalone Olive Garden today."

The business' 100 employees will be offered severance pay or an opportunity to work at another Dardens restaurant, such as the Olive Garden at Bluffton's Tanger 1, Jeffers said.

He did not know what will happen to the building, which required changes to development regulations and rezoning for parking. Those changes and construction took more than two years to accomplish.

Dick Stewart, principal of developer 303 Associates, said Darden owned the land and the building, which are in the Beaufort Town Center complex 303 Associates developed.

John Verity, chairman of the Beaufort Redevelopment Commission, said he was surprised Darden chose not to convert the business into a stand-alone Olive Garden. The Italian restaurant seemed to have a steady stream of customers, especially on Marine Corps graduation weekends, Verity said.

"I did feel they served a good market," he said. "I hope we can find an alternative use for the building."

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