Lefty’s Grill reopens in Nevada City after surviving two floods in two months | TheUnion.com

Lefty’s Grill reopens in Nevada City after surviving two floods in two months

Stephen Roberson
Staff Writer

John Cammack is doing what he loves again.

The co-owner of Lefty's Grill is spending most of his days cooking rather than sweeping out water and replacing drywall.

Lefty's, which was devastated by flooding twice since Jan. 8, held a soft reopening last week — two months to the day after it closed — a sort of test run, if you will. As of last Saturday, the longtime downtown Nevada City favorite is back in full operation. Patrons can eat in every room and on the patio.

"We've had beautiful weather," Cammack said, "so we had some people eating out on the deck on Saturday."

After two months of back-breaking work preparing for reopening, only to start over when more floods hit in February, Cammack's happy to be behind the grill.

"It's great to be back. Wednesday was awesome," he said. "When we opened last Wednesday, it was very, very quiet. It was just getting back into it. It was a super soft opening. Some of the drains under the building got broken. So we hoped we got it all fixed. We moved some of the equipment around, got some new equipment. It was about taking our time and doing it right."

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Cammack can't yet put a price on how much the flooding cost the restaurant. While flood insurance covered the building, it did nothing for lost earnings, product or equipment not attached to the building.

"For us it's really convoluted," he said. "In January, we have to pay the taxes of the fourth quarter of the previous year, which is big. Then the sales taxes for December, which is big. With no cash flow, that was quite a hurdle."

Of course, there was also the two months of lost business. There's the loss of product. There's the damaged equipment, which he expects to continue to be a problem for the foreseeable future.

"We figure we'll be fixing or replacing something about once a week because so much of the equipment took on water," he said.

Community support was key to the recovery. A GoFundMe page, a spaghetti feed and a coupon available through the restaurant — good for $125 for every $100 spent — helped keep the restaurant afloat.

"It was just enough to bridge the gaps, pay some people, keep people employed and get some new equipment," Cammack said.


Despite the soft opening, the pace picked up by last weekend and the restaurant was already booked for most of St. Patrick's Day.

"(Last) Friday and Saturday were nice," Cammack said. "It wasn't jam-packed, but we filled the place up."

Jake Clinton has been Lefty's bar manager since September. He said the two-month absence left a void in the community and his own restaurant family.

"It's just better for the community with Lefty's open," Clinton said. "Everybody was missing it. It's a go-to place for everyone here."

A modest crowd, mostly sitting on the deck above Little Deer Creek, enjoyed lunch and a few cocktails on Friday afternoon.

Grass Valley couple Phil and Maryalice Ritti, who have patronized Lefty's four or five times in the past, made a last-minute decision to swing by, enjoy the weather and sip on some suds.

"We were on our way home from downtown Grass Valley and my wife said, 'Hey, let's go get a beer at Lefty's.' We'd seen the ad, and we want to see this restaurant flourish," Phil Ritti said. "We'll be back … Everybody's pulling for local business."

"It's St. Patty's Day, we figured we'd come down and have a beer, so why not get it at Lefty's," Maryalice Ritti said, before joking, "I'm a little disappointed the beer is not green."

To contact Staff Writer Stephen Roberson, email sroberson@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.

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