Bennigan's food won't go to waste

Scott Long, representing the Florida Retail Federation Self Insurers Fund, which owns the property that Bennigan's is located on, shows off a box of lemons and other foods that will be donated to charitable organizations in the area such as the Reichert House.

JASON HENRY/Special to The Sun
Published: Friday, August 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 1, 2008 at 1:19 a.m.

When Bennigan's declared bankruptcy and closed with almost no advance warning to staff Monday night, the Gainesville restaurant was one of many left with a full stock of food.

Who better to try to eat all that food than growing, active teenage boys?

A representative of the property owner in town to secure the building donated the food to the Reichert House, a Gainesville Police Department after-school program for at-risk teenage boys.

The boys come to the program after school for tutoring, mentoring and fitness. They stay until bedtime, so the program feeds them, said GPD Officer Darry Lloyd, operations director of the program.

"During the run of the day, we have probably 55, 60 growing boys. That's a lot of food. They eat more than most kids," he said.

The food usually comes from the Gainesville Harvest food bank and various partners and businesses that donate to the program, Lloyd said.

He is arranging for about 10 of the boys to help pick up the food on Saturday.

Even with about 60 boys being fed six days a week, there is so much food that GPD arranged for the Peaceful Paths domestic violence shelter and Bread of the Mighty Food Bank to take some of the food, according to spokeswoman Officer Summer Hallett. The Reichert House is also between programs with summer camp just ending and the fall program starting Aug. 12.

"We're sorry Bennigan's is going bankrupt, but something good can always come out of something bad," Hallett said.

The beneficiaries will feast on three coolers full of steaks, potatoes, chicken, mozzarella sticks, meatballs, fresh vegetables, frozen fruit drinks, butter and cheese, among other food.

The donation came about after Scott Long, representing the property owner Florida Retail Federation Self Insurers Fund, contacted police to make sure trespassers are kept out of the building. Long has been visiting various closed restaurants to make sure they are safe and secure.

Part of that includes getting rid of food that could spoil and lead to health risks, he said. Restaurants that closed when Bennigan's and Steak & Ale went bankrupt have donated food in Polk, Hillsborough, Pasco and Duval counties, he said.

He said he will have to destroy liquor and any opened, unwrapped food.

The fixtures and furniture will remain during bankruptcy proceedings.

"I would imagine in the not too distant future should the previous tenant not come back to fruition that we would have something very similar within the premises," Long said.

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