Shannon Yates, one of Southwest Florida’s most influential chefs and restaurateurs, has died after battling COVID-19.
A manager of Nevermind Awesome Bar & Eatery, the 9-year-old Cape Coral restaurant in Yates, confirmed his death on Monday afternoon. Yates was 49 years old.
“Oh my God, this is hell,” said Cesar Otero, Yates friend and colleague for more than two decades. “I just found out. I can’t believe it.”
Sources in Nevermind said patrons gathered there in tears on Monday, mourning the loss of a local chief who turned his heart over to the community that raised him.
Yates, a 1989 Cape Coral High School graduate who played baseball at the former Edison Community College, got his start in the hospitality industry working at resorts including Sanibel Harbor south of Fort Myers and The Ritz -Carlton in Naples.
Yates waited for tables at the original Bistro 41 at Bell Tower Shops in southern Fort Myers before embarking on the creation of his own place. He opened Bacchus, a wine and tapas bar, in those same stores in 1999, followed by a location in downtown Fort Myers which he opened in August 2001.
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In 2004, a group of investors called on Yates to open something much more ambitious at Bell Tower: Cru.
“After two years of activity, Cru was Restaurant 2006 in Fort Myers, ”a 2016 News-Press article read.“ Top-notch bookings could not be found. The wines were great, the service impeccable, the ingredients exotic and carefully sourced. The dining room was a sea of doctors, lawyers, mortgage brokers and real estate investors, all inundated with booming wealth. “
After parting ways with Cru, Yates went through a series of food businesses with varying levels of success, including Mad Takeout and Lush, both in southern Fort Myers. Going back to his baseball roots, Yates hosted events for the Boston Red Sox during spring training. But it was by returning to his Cape Coral roots that Yates found his last restaurant at home.
In 2012, he teamed up with bartender Brittany Bowman to open a dark and cramped resto-lounge called Nevermind. He hung a portrait of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain at the lobby and focused on creating top-notch craft cocktails to pair with a short menu of chef-designed bar fare.
From day one, Nevermind has been a success.
“This is my vision, this is the first place that was all mine,” Yates said in a 2016 interview.
Otero, a director of Nevermind who has known and worked with Yates since the days of Bacchus, called his death “unimaginable.” Otero said Yates was admitted to hospital early last week with the coronavirus and his condition rapidly deteriorated.
Sources close to Yates said he chose not to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
When asked what would happen to the restaurant, Otero, still in shock, choked and refused to say. A comment on Nevermind’s Facebook page on Monday, written before the news of Yates ‘death was announced, said the restaurant had a “rock star” team perfectly capable of running the place in Yates’ absence. This comment has since been deleted.
Reuben Sliva, former chef de Cru and longtime friend of Yates, said in a text message that it was “a very dark time”.
Find Nevermind at 927 Cape Coral Parkway E., Cape Coral or visit facebook.com/nevermindbarandgrill to learn more.