|By Scott Joseph, The Orlando Sentinel,
Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jun. 4--The owners of Doc's restaurant in downtown Orlando expect to sign a partnership agreement with an Ohio management company this week to build a hotel on the restaurant's South Orange Avenue site, across the street from Orlando Regional Medical Center.
Neil Connolly, the restaurant's chef and co-owner, said the 150-room hotel will be undertaken with Gateway Hospitality Group. The project has an estimated price tag of $32 million.
Connolly said he expects construction to begin in September and be finished by late 2009. The existing structure will be only partially demolished, he said; the building's other tenants, including some doctor's offices, a medical-imaging facility and a hair salon, will be allowed to remain open for business.
The restaurant, however, will be closed prior to the start of construction. In anticipation of phasing out the current restaurant -- and partly because of a slow business in the evenings -- Doc's will be open only for lunch and private banquets effective immediately. Connolly said lunch business has been strong for the restaurant, which is across the street from ORMC and the rest of Orlando Health's giant downtown campus, but "dinners aren't really booming right now."
The hotel will be a Hampton Inn brand, according to Gateway Chief Executive Officer Robert Voelker, and it will contain a new Doc's restaurant with its own entrance on Orange Avenue.
In the meantime, the restaurant's owners, who have been planning the project for more than a year, are looking for another downtown location for Doc's to occupy during the hotel's construction and beyond. That restaurant would have a menu different from the original Doc's, Connolly said.
Gateway, which will have a 25 percent stake in the partnership, is based in Twinsburg, Ohio. This would be its first hotel project in Florida.
Scott Joseph can be reached at sjoseph@OrlandoSentinel.com or 407-420-5514.
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