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Jax Daily Record Monday, Oct. 4, 202105:00 AM EST

Wine Cellar to close after almost 50 years

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Vicki Dugan opened the Southbank Jacksonville restaurant in 1974 to offer continental dining.

After 47 years in business, the Wine Cellar restaurant on the Southbank announced it will close Oct. 16.

The restaurant, at 1314 Prudential Drive, announced on winecellarjax.com that it has had offers throughout the years for its restaurant and property.

“The right offer has now come at the right time,” it says.

“We have treasured our time of sharing fine dining, wine and culture with our little corner of North Florida, but now it is time for the next generation to take up the mantle as we walk into retirement.”

It titled the message: “All Good Things Must Come To An End.”

Vicki Dugan opened the Wine Cellar in 1974.

General Manager Wayne Shipley, who has been with the restaurant for more than 40 years, said Oct. 2 the property is under contract, but he declined to provide details.

“Thank you for your patronage, thank you for your friendship,” Shipley said, asking for the news to be “low key.”

“I’ll miss it. I’ll miss the customers.”

The restaurant is taking lunch and dinner reservations through its closing date, although the evenings are booked heavily with diners attending the Hamilton performances at The Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts on the Northbank.

“We have a ton of business in the next two weeks for Hamilton,” Shipley said.

The restaurant website says it adjusted its hours to lunch 11 a.m.-2:15 p.m. Wednesday-Friday and dinner from 5-10 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday.

Shipley emphasizes that reservations are required, especially given its skeleton crew.

Vicki Dugan opened the Wine Cellar in 1974 as its manager and partner in the business, the website says. It began as a retail wine shop with a small bistro for dining.

“She’s the first female restaurateur with fine dining in the Jacksonville area,” Shipley said.

The Wine Cellar Restaurant is across the street from Hampton Inn on the Downtown Southbank next to a BP gas station.

“It was her idea, her brainchild, in 1974 when she opened it.”

As the continental menu became popular, Dugan expanded the Wine Cellar into a restaurant and became the owner. 

The restaurant website says she bought the property in 1997 and doubled its size. Property records show the 3,909-square-foot building sits on about 0.15 acres. Shipley said the restaurant also owns a small parking lot nearby.

Dugan is the majority owner in the business. Shipley, 67, is a minority owner. He said Assistant Manager Gary Gebert also owns a small percentage.

Shipley said the COVID-19 shutdowns starting in March 2020 affected the business, as has the labor shortage.

He said the staff of 12 is down from 20 and the kitchen staff is especially small.

General Manager Wayne Shipley said the restaurant property is under contract.

While the restaurant has 100 seats, Shipley said they are limiting reservations to 50 so that the staff can work best.

Shipley said he is working on doing “everything I can do to make it easier for them the next two weeks.”

In addition to interior tables, there are limited seats on the patio.

The website describes the restaurant with “the quiet elegance of our intimate dining rooms” and “the old world charm of a French countryside as you dine beneath the shade of a majestic oak tree in our brick-paved garden.”

The wine selection runs six pages online.

The lunch menu includes bisque, salads, quiche, specialty sandwiches that start at fried shrimp soft tacos at $14, and entrees from shrimp and penne pasta and chicken piccata at $15 to grilled petite filet mignon at $27.

The dinner menu includes appetizers, salads and entrees that start at $25 for the piccata to $69 for a lobster tail with a petite filet mignon.

The Wine Cellar is adjacent to a BP gas station.
The Wine Cellar patio area.

 

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