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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Previously shuttered hot dog restaurant reopening in Ocala plaza

A hot dog, barbecue, and axe-throwing restaurant that closed in Ocala a few months after it opened last Summer will reopen under new ownership.

Crave Hot Dogs & BBQ will reopen its location at 2463 SW 27th Avenue, within the Shady Oaks Shopping Plaza in southwest Ocala.

The reopening follows months of uncertainty at the space.

Previous owner Mike Lutz opened the Crave franchise in Ocala at the former Kotobuki Japanese Steakhouse in August of last year. 

A few months after opening, Lutz was forced to close the restaurant. 

In the weeks leading up to Crave’s closure, a sign adorned the restaurant that indicated it was closed for “electrical” problems. 

Crave Hot Dogs & BBQ in Ocala has been closed for several weeks.
Crave Hot Dogs & BBQ had this sign on its front doors for several weeks before officially closing (November 2023)

In a lengthy social media post, Lutz claims he spent over $1 million to build out the location and is now “stuck with the cost.”

Lutz says the electrical problems were caused by continually “blowing breakers” and that he “was not going to pay $64,000 to fix” the problem. He claims that he had to pay a plumber “every week” to clean a “damaged line” to the tune of $700 each time.

Founded in 2018 by Samantha Rincione and Salvatore Rincione, Crave has been expanding aggressively over the past six years, with locations built or planned in 18 states. 

In March, Ocala-News.com reported that at least ten of those Crave franchises had opened and closed since the beginning of 2023. 

Crave Hot Dogs & BBQ in Ocala
Crave Hot Dogs & BBQ in Ocala (December 15, 2023)

One of those franchises was in Charleston, South Carolina. Owned and operated by Nathan Redmond, that location was forced to close within six months of opening, according to the owner. 

Redmond reached out to Ocala-News.com after reading our story about the other closures and provided a little insight into his own closure. 

“My biggest issue was not bringing in enough money to support the brick-and-mortar location,” said Redmond in an email to Ocala-News.com. 

Another franchise in Central Florida closed twice under two different owners in less than two years.

That Crave opened along Orange Avenue in Orlando in February 2022. The location closed several months after it first opened, and then reopened again under new leadership in February 2023.

It has since closed for a second time. 

Across the country, there are multiple franchises that have opened and closed in Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, North Carolina, and Michigan. Some of those restaurants reopened before ultimately closing again.

Despite the closures, there are still several Crave franchises and food trucks in operation across the country. 

Additionally, the company’s website indicates that there are at least four other locations “coming soon” to Florida alone, including one in The Villages.

A reopening date for Crave in Ocala has not yet been announced.