JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Forty days after a deadly mass shooting at the Jacksonville Landing, Chicago Pizza reopened its doors to customers Friday.
Taylor Robertson, 27, and Elijah Clayton, 22 were shot and killed when gunfire erupted during a Madden tournament at the Good Luck Have Fun Game Bar inside Chicago Pizza. The mass shooting injured 10 others.
Following the shooting, the restaurant was issued a cease and desist order by the fire marshal because of three fire code violations and for creating a game room that was not approved in the floor plan.
The violations have since been fixed and the restaurant got approval to reopen.
The doors opened at 11 a.m. Friday and the first day was emotional both for customers eager to show their support and for the owner, Cliff Comastro, who was inside during the attack Aug. 26.
"People need to know that just because something happened in a business doesn’t mean it is going to happen every time you walk through the doors," Comastro said.
The restaurant is not a chain and has been in Comastro's family for several years. He said he had 13 employees at the time of the shooting, and 10 returned to work Friday.
Red lanyards with crosses hang from the door handles and signs indicating new security measures could be seen in the windows. "No backpacks. No large bags. No luggage are allowed inside. No exceptions," a sign read.
Comastro said he takes security seriously and wants customers to feel safe.
He said they are going to increase security during special events, but the restaurant will utilize The Landing security on a day-to-day basis. The restaurant is showing the UFC fight Saturday night and is hosting karaoke this weekend -- both events will have extra security.
Comastro said that moving forward, most gaming tournaments will be online and not hosted at the restaurant.
University of North Florida student Traian Marginean frequents the restaurant and game bar and was excited to return Friday.
“(There's) no other community like it,” he said. “To see it open again and to see everything back to the way it was or on the way back to the way it was means a lot.”
Angela Walrath, who lives in Aiken, South Carolina, said she visits Chicago Pizza whenever she comes to Jacksonville and made a point of coming in Friday to show her support for the restaurant that welcomes her back year after year.
“To show support, to show that I am not scared to come back in here even (after) what happened,” Walrath said.
New hours, other changes
The restaurant, which was back in business at 11 a.m. Friday, will have slightly different hours of operation.
The new hours will be:
- Sunday-Thursday from 11 a.m.-12 a.m.
- Friday-Saturday from 11 a.m.-2 a.m.
Some changes that customers will notice include new flooring inside the restaurant.
“We updated some of the floors in there to give it an updated look. You know what I mean, kind of move past everything and make the place look a little better,” said Keith Flink, a subcontractor from Precision Flooring.
Flink believes this is a sign of hope and moving forward after tragedy.
No game bar for now
A statement from the restaurant written Tuesday reads in part:
We would like to thank everyone who reached out to us with support during this terrible time of grief, loss and heartbreak. As a family owned and operated business, we are looking forward to getting our employees back to together, serving all of our favorite people and continuing our relationship with vendors who have been so kind and supportive during all of this.
In the meantime, the Good Luck Have Fun Game Bar will remain closed until it gets the approval from the city inspector. The game bar announced Tuesday on Facebook it will undergo a renovation. Comastro told News4Jax it will be at least a month before the game room reopens.
A statement reads in part:
GLHF will be undergoing a revival of sorts over the coming weeks as we have decided to rebuild your favorite Game Bar from the ground up. We want to provide a beautiful, and fun environment for our entire community that has done so much for us. To do that correctly it will take time.
People walking by the Landing said they think the reopening will help the city move forward.
“It’s been here for a long time. I think it’ll sort of rejuvenate the area and try to get back to some normalcy,” Jamie Bowden said. “The Landing, in general, is a symbol and I know that there’s talk about shutting it down and replacing it and rebuilding things on the waterfront and it needs to be tightened up some but, for the most part I think it’s sort of a landmark for this area, including the Landing and I think it’s a good thing.”