Old Spanish Sugar Mill to close next month at De Leon Springs

The Old Spanish Sugar Mill at De Leon Springs State Park will close after 61 years in business. A new restaurant is expected to open in its place.

"We have been blessed to serve as a Central Florida staple since 1961," the restaurant wrote. "We sincerely thank you for making us your ‘go-to’ for when you’ve got company or a chocolate chip pancake craving. Thank you again for sharing those memories with us. The Sugar Mill was without a doubt the coolest breakfast restaurant in America."

In a Facebook post on Monday, the restaurant said that the state decided not to renew their contract – and instead awarded it to another vendor.

On Tuesday, the owners clarified in a Facebook post that the restaurant would close on Sept. 12, 2022, and said a new vendor, Guest Services, Inc., would open its own restaurant and dining experience in the space on Oct. 1, 2022. Few details on the new restaurant have been released, as the agreement is still being finalized, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said its contract with the current owners, Schwarze Enterprises, LLC., was scheduled to expire on Sept. 30, 2022. In advance of that, the department put out an open call for proposals for other groups to share potential restaurant plans and ideas for the space.

Five proposals were submitted and then ranked by "independent evaluators," the department said. Guest Services, who is taking over the space, was ranked #1, followed by Schwarze Enterprises in fourth. It was not immediately clear who else submitted proposals.

"The department thanks Schwarze Enterprises, LLC for their service to the visitors at De Leon Springs State Park," the statement read. The agency also confirmed that the building would close on Sept. 12 to install a new roof, and would remain closed until it reopens on Oct. 1.

The department also said that Guest Services, Inc., the new vendor, plans to "continue all the services and experiences that have made the Old Spanish Sugar Mill and Griddle House such a treasured part of a visit to De Leon Springs State Park." The Old Spanish Sugar Mill breakfast and brunch restaurant was well-known for its unique set-up allowing customers to make their own pancakes right at their table.

Many fans of the restaurant – which was famous for letting customers make their own pancakes at the table – went on social media to voice their frustrations.

"This truly, truly breaks my heart. This place will truly be missed," one person said.

"This is an epic tragedy! The Sugar Mill ‘pancake house’ is a central Florida staple and part of our heritage," another person wrote.

A Change.org petition has been started for the restaurant.