New WaWa site

The new Wawa store in Crystal River is scheduled to open sometime in 2021, according to the company.

It’s been two-and-a-half years since demolition crews tore down the old Fat Boys' Bar-B-Q restaurant in Crystal River to make way for a new Wawa gas station/convenience store.

The city and Wawa enthusiasts are still waiting.

What’s the hold-up?

Turns out the Pennsylvania chain has halted construction of all its stores under construction because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the civil unrest that emanated from the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis, said Crystal River Mayor Joe Meek.

However, chain officials have assured the city the Crystal River site — at the northeast corner of State Road 44 and U.S. 19  remains a priority and that it is scheduled to open sometime in 2021.

“Obviously that is an extremely important intersection in the heart of our city and it needs to move forward from a construction standpoint and not sit vacant,” Meek said.

Meek said Wawa has all the necessary permits to begin at any time.

Crystal River City Manager Ken Frink said he was told by Wawa the construction stoppage has affected 100 of its stores nationwide, even the ones that have already broken ground.

Ryan Keidel, Wawa’s real-estate project engineer, referred to “these unprecedented times” in an update to the city and the company “remains committed to investing in the Sunshine State.”

A typical Wawa store employs about 40 people, Keidel said.

The Crystal River store has been fraught with delays. Construction had originally been scheduled to start in late August 2019 and take seven months. Then it was delayed until November 2019.

Wawa opened its first Citrus County location in May 2019 at the southeast corner of County Roads 486 and 491 in Lecanto. About 200 people showed up for the grand opening.

Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-3205 or mbates@chronicleonline.com.