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Kitchen stays open after car crashes into Dunedin restaurant

DUNEDIN — The Mercury Marquis is 4,800-plus pounds of full-on American sedan, sure to grab attention when it crashes through a wall.

Shortly after 11 a.m. Sunday, a Marquis did just that, causing brief panic but no serious injuries in the dining room of Country Boy Family Restaurant on Main Street.

Despite the noise, broken glass and some dazed expressions, the restaurant's management and staff kept the coffee pouring and the eggs coming off the griddle.

"The kitchen stayed open," said owner Mario Constantinou, 51. "We didn't close."

Bob Lippincott, 78, was there for breakfast with his two middle school-aged granddaughters and their friend when the wall next to the booth they sat in exploded.

"The noise was unreal," Lippincott said. "I don't remember going from the seat to the floor, that's how fast everything was."

Once he got his bearings, Lippincott checked himself and the children for injuries. There was nothing serious.

Law enforcement said eight people were hurt, none badly. Two of them were taken to Mease Dunedin Hospital, treated and released.

Julie Bottie, a waiter at Country Boy for 20 years, said she heard a crash and ran to the dining area.

"People were going crazy," said Bottie, 47. "Everybody was trying to get out."

Constantinou and Bottie said several diners left the restaurant. Customers who wanted to keep eating, they said, were simply moved away from the damage.

Soon the debris was cleaned up and the restaurant got back to a routine rhythm by 1 p.m., they said, closing at 9 p.m. as scheduled.

"I don't like closing down," Constantinou said. "You lose business. We want to serve our people.

Driving the white Marquis was 86-year-old Joseph Tardif.

He and his wife, Jeanette, 87, come to Country Boy after church on Sundays. He gets two eggs scrambled, potatoes and white toast; she a biscuit and bowl of soup.

Tardif said he was parking in front of the restaurant, had his foot on the brake and was about to put the car in neutral and turn off the engine when his foot slipped and hit the accelerator.

"It could happen to anybody, I guess," Tardif said. "I wish it didn't happen to me, but it did."

Tardif has been cited for careless driving and faces a $166 fine.

"It's a miracle that no one got hurt," Tardif said, "but a lot of damage was done to the restaurant."

Constantinou said Tardif has been coming to Country Boy since he opened the restaurant 25 years ago.

He has no hard feelings toward his longtime customer, who was quite shaken by the sudden mayhem he had caused.

"I went over and gave him a glass of water," Constantinou said. "He said, 'I'm, sorry, I'm sorry.' He felt bad. I said, 'It's okay. It was an accident.' "

Will Van Sant can be reached at vansant@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4166.

Kitchen stays open after car crashes into Dunedin restaurant 10/12/09 [Last modified: Monday, October 12, 2009 8:55pm]

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