Culver’s to open in Port Charlotte

PORT CHARLOTTE — Culver’s, a fast-growing Midwest restaurant chain popular for its “ButterBurgers” and fresh frozen custards, will soon make its debut in Charlotte County.

On Tuesday, the County Commission unanimously approved a final detail plan resolution that will allow the franchise owner to move ahead on a proposal to construct a 4,061-square-foot building on a one-acre outparcel in the Wal-Mart shopping center on Kings Highway in Port Charlotte.

According to franchisee Steve Buchmeier, the restaurant will feature a drive-through window and an outdoor patio eating area. It will accommodate about 100 guests and employ between 50 to 70 full- and part-time employees. Owners hope to break ground within the next month and be open for business in September, Buchmeier said.

“Port Charlotte has a high population of people from the Midwest and that’s part of the reason why our brand has chosen to move into Florida,” Buchmeier said. “We want to serve the people that are living in the community and are familiar with Culver’s but we’re especially excited to grow and expand.”

Culver’s of Port Charlotte will be the first of three stores in Florida to open this year.

Charlotte County zoning official Sean Cullinan said the applicant has met all the requirements thus far, with a few minor exceptions.

“It meets all the requirements of code, and staff is looking forward to this coming in,” Cullinan told commissioners. “They have a building permit in-house already, and they’re overcoming a few minor (things), and we hope to have them under construction very soon.”

Normally, Cullinan said, the item would have been placed on the consent agenda but because of an error on his part it was placed on the regular agenda so as not to slow down the permitting process for the applicant.

Commissioner Chris Constance applauded Cullinan’s efforts, saying it was the appropriate thing to do.

“You did the right thing by fast-tracking this,” Constance said. “That’s what open for business is all about.”

After an economic recession that saw dozens of local restaurants go out of business, the opening of a Culver’s, whose signature items include the “ButterBurger” (made with a lightly buttered bun) and the popular “Flavor of the Day” frozen custard program, in Port Charlotte is welcome news.

The Wisconsin-based Culver’s restaurant chain is planning to establish at least three restaurants in Southwest Florida in 2013, said a company spokesman.

Culver’s currently has more than 470 independently owned and operated restaurants in 20 states. Florida would be the chain’s 21st.

“We’re looking forward to bringing the Culver’s experience to guests in Florida,” Phil Keiser, president and chief operating officer, said in a statement. “We know there are many people from the Midwest who know the Culver’s brand. They’ll be great ambassadors for our food and hospitality.”

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