MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The managers at Zona Fresca Fresh Mexican Grill in Plantation could hardly contain their excitement Monday.

“Six months and one day I’ve been waiting for this day,” said Tim Dobravolsksis, Chief Operating Officer for the company.

That’s because Zona Fresca, along with a number of other restaurants and businesses, were forced to shut down following the explosion at the Market at University shopping plaza last summer. State investigators determined that an open gas valve in a vacant restaurant led to the explosion, which injured 22 people. It’s believed that the explosion was triggered when an air conditioning unit turned on. Since then, Zona Fresca owners waited on repairs and inspections to be completed.

“As a business owner, I’m just glad to be open,” Dobravolsksis said. “It’s not about blame or how long it took with the city or whatever. In fact, everybody’s been really nice and wants to see us open.”

The damage at Zona Fresca was minimal but the management still decided to replace much of the interior of the restaurant.

“We had one window that was broken, that was it,” he said. “Otherwise, the building was fine.”

On Monday, things looked back to normal. Employees busily prepared food and Zona Fresca manager Rosa Abella says customers were waiting for them to open their doors. She said she heard all kinds of reactions.

“‘Thank God, you guys are open. We’re ready for you guys,’” she said. “It was amazing.”

Many of the employees returned as well. Zona Fresca management found work for the affected employees at other restaurants in the company and 14 of the 15 employees who employed here when the explosion happened returned on Monday.

“They find us a place to work,” Abella said. “They didn’t let us drown. They support us in every way.”

There are still unanswered questions about the explosion like how did the gas valve at the vacant restaurant get opened. State investigators told CBS 4 News on Monday that they’re still sorting that out.

One thing that is certain is that Zona Fresca managers are pleased to be able to open their doors again and they feel confident their customers will return.

“We were very busy today,” he said. “People were clapping that we came back to the community.”

Carey Codd

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