One of the causalities was Hamilton’s Restaurant on the corner of Thomas and North Lagoon Drive. The restaurant was destroyed. Demolition crews cleared the land Monday, but the owner is unclear about his future.
Hamilton's Restaurant became one of dozens of symbols of the sheer force of Hurricane Ivan. Our cameras caught the destruction as the restaurant took a direct hit from a tornado.
Steve Stevens, Hamilton's owner, said, "Mother nature's going to do what it wants to. Just thankful to be alive."
That was owner Steve Stevens surveying, for the first time, what was left of his business. Everything he'd worked for was destroyed in a matter of seconds. More than 70 employees felt the effects too.
"Without a business you can't have a home."
Unfortunately Stevens did not have enough insurance coverage to rebuild, and the county refused to rezone his property so he could rebuild Hamilton's as the first floor of a high rise condo development.
On Monday, almost two years after Ivan wrecked it, demolition crews began finishing the job. Steven's assistant watched the demolition from her office window.
Kim Malcom, Steve Steven's assistant, said, "Even though the hurricane hit two years ago, now it's closure, and it's sad."
The cleanup will take two weeks. After that it's anyone's guess as to what will be built on this land.
Right now he has different options he is thinking about. He has no definite concrete plans. Hamilton’s will definitely not be on the property again, but you never know, it might be somewhere else on Panama City Beach sometime in the future.
Two years later, Stevens is still thanking all of Hamilton's loyal customers, the community and his friends who've been there both before and after Ivan.