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'There's symbolism in what we're trying to do tonight' | St. Augustine restaurant opens its doors 36 hours after flooding, losing power

In an effort to help its staff as well as customers recover from Ian, Catch 27 opened its doors to customers shortly after Hurricane Ian caused damage.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — "We had the water level basically come up to this top brick," Stephen Hutson said, pointing to the top of a brick wall about four feet off the ground.

Catch 27 is a restaurant in the heart of historic St. Augustine. It's about as Florida as a place can get. The title stands for fresh caught fish and Florida being the 27th state.

As owner, Hutson knows that hurricanes are bad for business, despite lengthy preparations.

"Water still gets in," said Hutson. "Water always finds a way."

It's the latest obstacle he's had to overcome, after the pandemic. But less than 48 hours after Hurricane Ian made landfall, the doors to Catch 27 opened.

Hutson says Friday was used to deep clean before reopening Saturday.

Located in a flood prone area, Hutson's business is impacted by even the slightest storm.

"Even normal tropical storms or tropical depressions that go by, the second all our phones get that severe weather warning, I can just look at my reservations for the night and it's like, 'Cancel. Cancel. Cancel,'" said Hutson.

Hurricane Ian flooded Catch 27's outdoor dining area with a couple feet of water. The kitchen saw a few inches. The power went out due to an underground power line fire.

Yet, it's not the worst they've persevered over the last decade.

"We lost everything in Matthew," said Hutson. "Then 11 months later, had to repeat all of that with Hurricane Irma."

While he learns from every storm, he said Ian had its own uniqueness.

"(It was) like Hurricane Charlie. The entire storm fit in the eye of Hurricane Ian," said Hutson. "So, just the sheer size - even though it took the same path, the affected path was much smaller for Hurricane Charlie. For [Ian], it was basically the whole state."

It's part of why his restaurant hustled to re-open.

"We could've waited to open until Monday," said Hutson. "There's a lot of symbolism in what we're trying to do tonight."

Symbolism and service.

"We're not open right now to necessarily make money," said Hutson. "We're just open to let everyone know if they needed a break from fixing things, hosting families, cooking meals for other people... that they can come here, relax, we'll take care of cooking and drinks tonight."

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