KEY LARGO -- Plans to open a Denny's restaurant at mile marker 97.6 are moving forward, according to franchise owner Hany Haroun.
Haroun, who has been living in Key Largo for almost 19 years, also owns the local Wendy's.
"I know what it takes to put out a good product," he said. "I've been in business for quite some time."
Haroun expects the project to cost $2 million and has received bank approval to move forward. Roof construction is now under way at the planned location -- the former Anthony's Restaurant and later American Legion building in the median of U.S. 1. He anticipates a January opening.
"It's something that was needed down here," Haroun said. "I was sold on it from the beginning."
Haroun was considering opening an IHOP or Perkins, but he said they did not offer the best franchising opportunities.
"Denny's really did the best job," he said.
On top of the initial start-up fees, Haroun said he will pay a monthly franchise fee.
He also said he will consider serving beer, wine and spirits, but has not yet applied for the permit.
Planning on putting the project down here took many meetings with Key Largo residents about what they wanted.
"I asked a lot of locals how they feel about the franchise," Haroun said. "It's an interesting town."
Initially the restaurant will close at 1:30 a.m. with the plan of becoming a 24-hour operation not long after.
Part of the reason it took so long to move forward with construction was a group of local people that Haroun said referred to themselves as "Denny's Haters."
"I don't think I'm here to kill business," he said. "I'm definitely a local."
Haroun described himself as a philanthropist who supports the Key Largo community.
"We believe in this community," he said. "We are very happy here. We felt comfortable here. We don't just give. We get involved."
Haroun said he plans to get involved with Key Largo School and offer a free meal to students who make the honor roll as part of Denny's Honor Program.
An outside company has been hired to build the restaurant and Haroun expects everything to go smoothly.
"These guys build Denny's," he said. "They know what they're doing and it's going to go up fast."