By: Katie Garwood
Olio owner Greg DeSanto is contemplating several options for the future of his Downtown restaurant, including a possible sale.
He listed the restaurant space for sale several weeks ago but said if business turns around, it may not be necessary to sell.
Given the financial losses the restaurant has seen in the past year and DeSanto’s need for a hip replacement, his plan is to sell the space and reopen Olio, or another concept, elsewhere.
“If things turn around tomorrow, will I stay open, there’s a chance, sure,” DeSanto said.
“But the logistics of the situation, it’s long days. I’m starting to get a little older and there’s some different paths I could be taking. Given the current economic situation and world outlook situation, I don’t want to say I’m doing something but then not follow through with it.”
DeSanto said it has been a tough financial year for the restaurant as many Downtown workers, his primary customers, have been working from home. Sales are down 60% to 75% from pre-pandemic levels.
The restaurant serves lunch. He has three employees.
With the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront fully booked by the U.S. Marine Corps for quarantining recruits until at least May, there haven’t been any hotel guests to visit the restaurant.
DeSanto said he also needs a hip replacement, which he’s been putting off to run the restaurant, but cannot delay much longer.
While the 4,141-square-foot restaurant space is listed for sale, DeSanto said he also would consider a buyer who wants the equipment and Olio’s intellectual property. The space at 301 E. Bay St. is listed at $550,000, according to the Colliers International site.
Olio is on the ground floor of the J.H. Churchwell building, which houses 21 condominium units.
Colliers Senior Director Matthew Clark is representing DeSanto.
DeSanto thinks it is more likely someone wants only the restaurant space, in which case he would open Olio elsewhere in the months following his medical procedure. If someone did buy all of Olio, he said he has several other concepts he could open — but not Downtown.
He said he has started looking at locations.
“I’m not looking in a saturated area,” he said, noting areas like Riverside or San Marco wouldn’t be the right fit for Olio.
“The South Jacksonville area, maybe Mandarin. A little closer to home in Fruit Cove, but I’m open as well. If the area is right, the price is right, the space is right, all bets are off and I’d go anywhere. The dream space is a little smaller and a little closer to home.”
Selling the restaurant isn’t what DeSanto wants to do, and after nearly 10 years owning it, closing will be bittersweet, he said.
“I’m really, really sad,” he said. “This is my baby. Part of me feels like I’m losing a loved one.”