Local landmark Cabo’s set to close

Inside Cabo’s Island Grill & Bar. Photo courtesy: Briasia Russ

Loyal customers and staff were disappointed to learn that Cabo’s Island Grill & Bar will be closing its doors Oct. 23.

The owner, 70-year-old Mike Ferrara, has decided to retire and says it is going to be a heartfelt week.

“I love what I do,” he said. “There has been a lot of crying going on the last three or four days and I’ve done a lot of it myself.”

He opened the restaurant in 1987 with his partner, Bobby Staerker. The pair used what they had and worked together to get to where they are today.

“I partnered up with Bobby Staerker and he brought in all his knowledge with the grill and I had the Mexican stuff going on,” Ferrara said.

He had no restaurant experience prior to opening Cabo’s on Apalachee Parkway.

Things seemed to be going well for the restaurant up until the COVID-19 pandemic. In March of 2020, Florida Gov, Ron DeSantis closed all restaurant dining rooms, leaving food spots like Cabo’s to offer carry-out only.

“When COVID hit, everything just blew up,” he said. “We had to turn into a carry-out restaurant, that was really traumatic.”

Now that restaurants are fully back open, Ferrara says the location just isn’t in high demand like it used to be. “With places like Midtown, CollegeTown and Northside, Cabo’s location isn’t a place that people are coming to dine anymore,” he said.

General manager Lindsay Berke has been working at Cabo’s for 11 years and says it  is more than just a workplace. “It’s basically like a family and more than just a job,” she said. “It’s not your typical workplace, we definitely are like a family. We stuck together through a lot, through COVID and everything and when we had to shorten our staff.”

“For the customers who have been coming here for a long time, it’s sad for them. There are people that come here every single day,” Berke added.

The employees have decided to stick together and are currently looking to work at the same restaurant.

A loyal customer says she is going to miss getting her regular, Key lime pie and coffee.

“Every Friday, my husband and I would meet for lunch at the same table at the back patio,” she said. “I’m really going to miss eating here, today I’m having my last lunch.”

The eatery is full of photos that date back as early as 1991 with customers and staff gathered in front of the restaurant for their annual customer appreciation party.

“For 364 days, they supported us,” Ferrara  said. “So, on that one day, my staff works without pay and my partner and I have never made a dime on it.”

Since the announcement of its closing earlier this week, customers have been stopping by to show their love and support. “I’ve told people I don’t care; I don’t want the money. Just come in and let me thank you for allowing me to have the lifestyle that I’ve had,” Ferrara said. “It’s been a joyful ride. I’m not going to miss being a bus boy at 70 years old. But I am really going to miss the people.”