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Success Story

Steamboat Willies owner standing under restaurant sign

Steamboat Willies

Cheryl explained which programs to apply for, what the exact terms were and when I asked about the possibility of refinancing my building, she also ran me through some scenarios and possibilities.

Steamboat Willies, located on St. Johns Avenue has been a part of the Palatka community since the 1980s. Steamboat Willies transformed in 2010 when owner John Lyon purchased the business from his parents and changed it from a bar and restaurant to a bar only.  After nearly a decade, John considered adding the restaurant back, then the pandemic hit and he was forced to close his doors.

He decided to reopen the restaurant and apply for a license to serve food, but knew he needed some help.  He was referred to Cheryl Lynch of the Florida SBDC at UNF to help him with available disaster loans.  According to John, “Cheryl explained which programs to apply for, what the exact terms were, and when I asked about the possibility of refinancing my building, she also ran me through some scenarios and possibilities.”

Everything was on track to move forward until the original lender changed their mind and backed out due to COVID.  “It is a tough thing to have to tell a client that the lender backed out, but we pushed forward,” said Lynch.  It took almost six months, but Cheryl was able to find another lender. “She never gave up trying to help me out of this situation and transition, all through this pandemic.  It’s been a year like no other for sure,” said Lyon.  “Her persistence has enabled me to expand back into a restaurant and bar, hire some people, and give the old building the love it needs to freshen up.”

Steamboat Willies is currently serving food in the evening.  They will soon offer a gastropub-style menu and will also be open for lunch once the renovations are complete. They often host live music on the weekends and have outdoor seating available.  Steamboat Willies is located at 309 St. Johns Ave., Palatka FL.

Steamboat WilliesJohn Lyon

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