Fulton's Crab House in Disney Springs will close for a long-term renovation in April. More than 200 workers at the restaurant will be laid off, according to a notice filed with the state of Florida. Those workers will be given first dibs on applying for jobs at the new restaurant when it opens in November, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Fulton's is the successor to the Empress Lilly, a riverboat-themed restaurant complex named after Walt Disney's wife that opened in 1976 in what was then the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village. When Levy Restaurants took over and revamped the facility as Fulton's Crab House in 1996, the riverboat's smokestacks and ever-churning stern wheel were removed.
Levy's original contract with Disney to run the restaurant was for 20 years, which would mean that the deal is expiring this spring, if no extension or changes were agreed to. (We could not find a record of any.) Last month, the Planet Hollywood restaurant in Disney Springs closed for a long-term refurbishment, resulting in the layoff of more than 400 workers. There has been no announcement from Disney or Levy yet about the future of Fulton's Crab House.
According to the Sentinel, Fulton's Crab House takes in more money than any other independently-owned restaurant at the Walt Disney World Resort, and ranks in the top 20 highest-grossing independent restaurants in the United States.
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Anyway, it stinks to lose Fulton's, even if temporarily. But I hope that they bring back the stern wheel and smokestacks as part of the refurb.
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"lay off 214 people"
"the cuts will take place from April 4 to April 14"
"Fulton’s Crabhouse is one of the highest grossing eateries in the entire country, bringing in about $21.2 million annually with an average check of about $45, according to Restaurant Business Online."
"That puts it at number 13 among independent restaurants nationwide, and the highest grossing independent restaurant at Disney, more than Wolfgang Puck Grand Café."