Eater San Diego

Anthony's Fish Grotto in La Mesa Set to Reopen for Takeout, For Now

Last week, a message posted on the San Diego restaurant's Facebook page hinted the coronavirus pandemic was taking such a toll, the La Mesa business might not be able to bounce back

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The longtime La Mesa restaurant, Anthony’s Fish Grotto, plans to reopen this week for takeout after its fate appeared murky amid the ongoing economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

The East County eatery located on Murray Drive – known for its seafood and views of a manmade lake – posted a message on Facebook on May 5 that riled up its longtime patrons.

The message said the restaurant’s last day open for takeout would be May 9 and, so, the restaurant was having a beer, liquor and wine inventory sale, while supplied lasted.

“We will announce future developments as we weigh the current tough economic situation playing out for the dine-in restaurant industry,” the post read.

As Eater San Diego reported, patrons did not like the ominous tone of that post. More than 200 comments were left on the Facebook thread fearing the restaurants – which has been in La Mesa for more than five decades – would have to shutter permanently, as other local eateries have had to do.

Eater reported Monday that due to the overwhelming response from customers over the weekend, Anthony’s Fish Grotto owner Craig Ghio will reopen the restaurant this Wednesday for takeout and retail – but only on a trial basis.

The trial reopening will go on for the next 8 weeks, according to Eater, and then Ghio will reassess the situation of his business.

Ghio told Eater he decided to close the eatery last week to save money until restaurants could restart dine-in service in California.

California Governor Gavin Newsom is expected this week to share more guidelines for reopening restaurants as part of the state’s plan to get back to business in the times of the COVID-19 crisis.

Ghio, on behalf of Anthony’s Fish Grotto, posted another message to Facebook on May 9 announcing its May 13 reopening.

“It was humbling and overwhelming to see the response in our decision to stop operations,” the message read, in part. “While closing permanently was certainly a major financial consideration, it wasn’t final, but most other options were not looking good.”

Ghio said the phones rang off the hook all weekend and the support of patrons has convinced his family “to make all possible sacrifices to stay open.”

“Thank you for showing us again that we’re not just another seafood restaurant, but a piece of living San Diego history,” the message said.

Ghio told Eater San Diego he has received funds through the Payment Protection Program, which prompted his decision to reopen. He plans to monitor the restaurant’s cash flow to determine if Anthony’s can stay in business. Read more on his interview with Eater here.

Anthony’s Fish Grotto, operated by the Ghio family, has been a San Diego staple for more than 70 years. With roots dating back to 1946, the East County location was planned in 1950, followed a decade later by the Anthony’s Fish Grotto that stood on downtown San Diego’s waterfront for 52 years.

In 2017, Anthony’s shuttered its location on North Harbor Drive in downtown San Diego, leaving only the La Mesa location open. At that time, longtime patrons were saddened by the closure of the waterfront location, many feeling as if it were the end of an era.

A crane tore through the roof of Anthony's Fish Grotto on Harbor Drive Thursday to make way for a new restaurant project by The Brigantine, Inc.

That iconic site on the waterfront is now being redeveloped by another longtime San Diego restaurant group, the Brigantine, which began construction there more than two years ago. The Brigantine is turning the former waterfront Anthony’s location into a $25 million, two-story dining complex set to be completed by this July.

The restaurant closes officially on Tuesday. NBC 7’s Alex Presha has the story.
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