Owner Chris Sehman said D'Wons, a local buffet-style restaurant located at the foot of the Navarre Beach bridge, is re-thinking their strategy in the wake of shaky economic times and the financial fallout from the BP oil spill that continues to plague the Gulf Coast economy.
"The unforeseen oil spill has forced us to regroup," Sehman said in an interview July 6. "This is a tourist-driven market and we planned our opening around this season. Now that nobody's coming across the bridge to eat, we had to do something."
Sehman and his manager Tok Mapon said the restaurant will continue to offer its signature Cajun-style dishes, but this time the food will be "plated" up and presented a la carte instead of in the buffet-style fashion that was once the restaurant's hallmark.
"We're just trying to rethink what we're doing in light of the conditions," Mapon explained.
Customers were treated to a sign in the window on Monday, informing them of an "until further notice" closure. Mapon and Sehman said that was by design.
"Right after the spill happened in April, we started to plan for what might happen," said Sehman. "We decided to power through until June and possibly close right after the July 4 holiday and that's what we're doing."
In addition to re-vamping the menu, the store is getting a cosmetic makeover as well. The outlet will feature new floors in its vast window-laden space.
The concept is overseen by resident chef Mark "D'Won" Palmer, for whom the restaurant is named, and who created the custom menu.
D'Won's is one of two restaurants currently housed in a 12,000 square foot building situated at the mouth of the Navarre Bridge, where the causeway meets U.S. Highway 98. Known affectionately to locals as "Boondocks," the original plan was to also house a seafood and spirit shop, though that appears to have been shelved now, too.
As for D'Won's, Sehman assures the closure is only temporary and that the restaurant will be up and running shortly.
"We will not close permanently," he said.