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Downtown Fort Lauderdale restaurant YOLO will close on Monday, July 12, to begin a major renovation of the popular indoor-outdoor venue.
The restaurant, at 333 E. Las Olas Blvd., will be completely gutted during the project, which is expected to take three to four months.
“There’s nothing we’re not going to refinish and re-do. It’s going to be YOLO reimagined,” says co-owner Tim Petrillo, of the Restaurant People. “The way the restaurant feels will be 100 percent different.”
The nightspot next door, O Lounge, also will be closed for a top-to-bottom remodel. The Restaurant People’s Java & Jam cafe on the west side of the plaza will remain open.
The project comes as business is booming: Petrillo says sales at YOLO for the first half of 2021 are ahead of those for the same period in 2019, pre COVID.
YOLO 2.0 is expected to reopen in October or November. Petrillo was reluctant to go into specifics about the new spaces — some ambitious, custom-built features he has planned may be a challenge for suppliers to deliver on time during the COVID slowdown, he says.
Petrillo did say that the hot spot — a favorite for selfies with the new Ferrari, Tesla or Lambo — will get even hotter. Literally.
One of the first area restaurants to feature an outdoor fire pit, the new YOLO will include a larger, more elaborate fire element, Petrillo says.
“The whole patio has been reimagined, and there is going to be this really iconic feature that will be the Instagram thing,” he says.
But Petrillo says YOLO was due for a refresh. The project had been scheduled for summer 2020, until the pandemic hit.
Changes in the downtown Fort Lauderdale living and dining dynamic, which accelerated during the pandemic, made the renovation even more imperative, Petrillo says.
The downtown residential population has grown in the last decade, with new residents jockeying for seats with the lunchtime and after-work financial crowd that had been YOLO’s staple, says Petrillo, also a board member of the Downtown Development Authority.
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A year of COVID has increased the number of nearby residents, who are younger and especially eager to eat out after being holed up inside for so long, he says.
And new dining and nightlife destinations to the west of YOLO — including the Wharf, Rooftop, Harborwood Urban Kitchen & Bar and Eddie V’s — have created more traffic, many on foot, along that end of touristy East Las Olas Boulevard, Petrillo says.
“We were the furthest thing west when we opened. Not much was happening on that side of the street. Now we’re the center of the universe,” Petrillo says.