A massive portion of the site where the Journey Church once sat and now only contains the Loop restaurant is being transformed by Amelia Island bar and restaurant veteran Bill Childers (40) and his business partner Eric Deady (32) into a 14,000 square-foot emporium featuring bars and dance venues with themes ranging from a country-western dance hall-saloon and a nightclub setting to a classy, cozy local hangout and a speak-easy.
Childers, who spent seven years working with the Sheffield family as Director of Operations for its extensive Amelia Island Hospitality Group complex that includes The Palace Saloon, Dog Star, Surf, Hammerhead and more, comes equipped with a liquor license and business partner Deady, who recently bought Halftime Sports Bar & Grill, and has extensive experience building area bars and restaurants, including many for the Sheffield family. Childers had investment interests in the Surf and Hammerhead while Deady’s Parker Contracting trucks can be spotted at restaurant and bar construction sites all around the island.
During a walk-through of the site earlier this week Tampa Bay area native Childers, who has a degree in commercial art and advertising, outlined his ambitious plans describing from an architect’s drawing exactly how the four bar venues and two large patios will be constructed around the current Loop space. He obviously knows his stuff as he was instrumental in the design of downtown’s Sheffield’s, the beach-front Hammerhead and Surf, and Yulee’s Emerald Goat.
Of the four venues the centerpiece will be “Sadler Ranch”, which Childers anticipates being “the hottest country bar on the Florida-Georgia line.” He says it will consist of more than “7,000 square-feet of pure rockin’ country with a real wood dance floor to back it up.” The interior will sport a corral look with a dance floor, observation balconies overlooking it, and a stage. In addition to local and regional performers and DJ’s, Childers says Sadler Ranch will feature national acts as well, something no other venue on the island can boast. The 400-person capacity Ranch will also provide darts, horseshoes, ping pong, etc. much of it on an outdoor patio. It’s obvious Childers has visited country-western venues such as Fort Worth’s Billy Bob’s, Houston’s Mickey Gilley’s and others where he cherry picked some of their better ideas. This section is expected to open next spring, possibly late March, and so far the only things missing are a rodeo arena and hitching posts, but who knows….they aren’t finished yet.
Another anchor in the undertaking is “Locals,” a concept that Childers says will feature a large circular bar, cozy comfortable chairs, large screen TVs featuring professional and college sports, as well as a separate room with three to four pool tables, bar snacks and a variety of beers, possibly even some that will soon be brewed on the island in the new downtown Centre Street brew tavern. Bar snacks will be available but at this time Childers say none of the venues will feature a kitchen, which should be a boon for the Loop and other nearby eateries who should be able to capitalize on the project. However, catering will be available for special functions and parties. Locals will accommodate about 100 folks and Childers says he expects it to be open late next month. It will also feature its own patio and two fireplaces and will have a capacity of about 100.
The nightclub element to the concept is still a work in progress says Childers, but he adds that his team is considering the name “Vault 869 – a Nightclub”, playing off the street address 869 Sadler Road. The plan they are contemplating is having the entrance designed like a bank vault with the exterior similarly designed. This section will accommodate some 150 people, feature a dance floor, top 40 popular music and possibly be open only Friday and Saturday. The nightclub opening is planned for sometime next summer.
To me, one of the most interesting features of the development will be the “speakeasy” or stealth portion, an intimate area to be called “Churchill’s”, closeted away in the complex with a false entry and requiring a code. It will accommodate just 40 people who have access to the pass code and will gain entry through an old English red telephone booth that sits in an “out-of-business” barber shop. Childers says: “Inside it will have the feel of a judge’s chambers complete with large leather sofas and a cigar humidor.”
Owners of the complex, that has sat vacant for more than a year, have agreed to resurface the parking lot, add landscaping and work on the facade of the building. The location’s 300 parking spaces should comfortably handle the anticipated crowds.
It has also been rumored that the complex owners are trying to woo a grocery store to move into the building, possibly a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. Years ago when I lived in Atlanta one of the most popular night spots was a dance club in the Buckhead area next to a Kroger grocery store, an area the locals christened “Disco Kroger.” Who knows what the locals might brand this eclectic combination.
For additional information Childers can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 904/651-6925.
Betting On Island Growth: The suits working in the Kroger Company’s business planning function may have looked at the same statistics that Bill Childers and Eric Deady saw and if they prove correct, the future for Amelia Island looks very promising, particularly for people that own property and businesses here.
For example, if the Kroger Company, that owns and operate the south end Harris Teeter grocery store, didn’t think Amelia Island wasn’t going to grow at a rapid and prosperous rate it certainly wouldn’t have announced an expansion plan to increase the size of its 35,000 square-foot store here by an additional whopping 20,000 square feet.
Company spokesperson Danna Robinson told the Nassau County Independent (ncflindependent.com) recently that work is expected to start on the expansion this coming spring and will be completed at its 4800 First Coast Highway store by the end of 2016.
According to the Independent, Harris Teeter is going use the added space to open an inside-the-store Starbucks as well as add a pharmacy, a wine bar, a cheese and pizza island, an expanded produce section, more full-service meat and seafood cases, a dry-aged beef case as well as expanded chef and pastry cases. She said that the store will also feature an Asian bar, salad bar and an event catering station. The only things they left out are a cocktail lounge and a stripper pole.
The corporate planners at Harris Teeter are wisely shrugging off the anti-growth island loons and betting their company’s cash on the area’s economic strength and future prospects.
Apathy Wins City Election: It appears that the contingency that Fernandina Beach City Commissioner Pat Gass claims is hers won the Fernandina Beach election this past Tuesday — the folks that don’t vote and that don’t show up at City Commission meetings. Just 1,983 of the city’s 9,857 registered voters bothered to cast ballots, turning the election into one that the 7,826 folks who didn’t show up may come to regret. Anyone who lives in the city, owns a business or home here or pays taxes and is eligible to vote and didn’t bother to do so should closely follow the next 12 months to see what their indifference may have done to the community. According to a story by Mary McGuire in her online Independent (ncflindependent.com) Supervisor of Elections Vicki Cannon calls those that did vote “super voters.” Ms. Canon added: “You can count on super voters to participate every time we have an election.” It’s sad that the community lets less than 2,000 “super voter” residents dictate how their city will be run.
Is History Repeating Itself? The Roman Empire lasted a little more than 500 years. And while it was subjugating the Jews and persecuting followers of the then new Christian religion, its fall came when unassimilable hordes of Huns, Goths, Vandals and Saxons, combined with economically ruinous Roman government programs, to wreck the culture and send Europe spiraling into the horror of the dark ages. Those unwelcome “immigrants” whose only objective was plunder, slaughter, rape, destruction and subjugation destroyed the Roman culture, economy, infrastructure and government. Sound familiar? Today the U.S. and its calamitous government economic programs ignore the plight of Middle Eastern Christians and watch as Jews in Israel and elsewhere are assailed and threatened with annihilation by Islamic hordes. However, it attempts to appease the indigestible Islamic “refugee” masses that are flooding Western borders while ignoring the fact that the Islamic playbook doesn’t differ from that of the uncivilized counterparts of 1,500 years ago as they have no interest in anything other than the destruction of the West and its total subjugation. The Arabs’ World War II ally, Adolph Hitler, described his annihilation and conquest plans in his book “Mein Kampf, but nobody read it. The Islamists have outlined their plans in their “Quran” and again nobody is paying attention. Very scary!
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: Restaurateur Tom Poynter, spurred by the success of his downtown Fernandina Beach 21 North 3rd Street Timoti’s, is opening a second one in Jacksonville’s Five Points on Park Street across from the old Sun Ray Theater, an area that’s seeing a lot of growth recently and expects more to come. In my opinion Timoti’s and Chowder Ted’s, under Browns Mill Creek Bridge at 5215 Heckscher Drive, serve the best chowders in the area. Sitting at the counter munching a $10.95 plate of field peas, broccoli salad, grilled trigger fish garnished with shrimp, a fluffy biscuit, and sipping iced tea at South 8th Street’s T-Ray’s I was told by T-Ray Mullis that the Friday before the Florida-Georgia game, he sold 110 pounds of shrimp in three hours, 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., a record for a single day. Oh, and that’s in addition to the burgers, crab cakes, etc. that were flying out of his kitchen. But Florida-Georgia isn’t the busiest time of year for this iconic eatery. That takes place during the Amelia Island Concours d’ Elegance, which is scheduled March 11-13 next year. About 2 p.m. Friday of the Georgia-Florida weekend I stopped by The Surf, to hear Smoky & the Bandits and wasn’t disappointed, as the group played a medley of country favorites that ranged from Hank Williams Sr. tunes to the one of my favorites, the 1976 “Put Another Log On the Fire” classic by Tompall Glaser. This is a fun and talented group headed up by 84-year-old patriarch Smoky Coe, and includes several family members. Later that day I discovered that it pays to attend one of the Friday wine tastings at A Taste of Wine by Steve, as following my purchase of a bottle of Rodney Strong merlot, I was entered into a drawing for a $100 gift certificate at Bar Zin and my name was blindly drawn by Holly Carlile, of Southern Wine & Spirits of North Florida. Donna and Steve Raszkin will conduct their a regular Friday wine tasting this evening 5-7 p.m. on the porch at their 4914 First Coast Highway location and next Friday, November 13, they will have a special Thomas Harrell wine bottle engraving that proved so popular last year the shop didn’t close until after 11 p.m. Pick a wine to have special dates, football logos, etc. engraved on bottles that make unique gifts. Call ’em at 904/557-1506. The Crescendo Big Band will perform this evening at the Fernandina Beach Golf Club on Bill Melton Road from 7-10 with two covers, $10 and $20 VIP. I have no idea what you get for the extra $10 in the VIP cover. The popular band makes its first fall appearance at Sandy Bottoms at Main Beach next Friday, November 13 beginning at 7 p.m. with a $10 cover. Each time you stop by the Fletcher Avenue Surf you can register to win a weekend for four that includes lodging at the renovated New Surf Boutique Motel, a round of golf at Amelia River Golf Club, dinner at The Surf, and drinks at The Palace Saloon. Speaking of the Surf, it dropped its all-you-can-eat wing price to $10 for the Wednesday 5-9 p.m. special, putting them at 50 cents each if you consume 15, a competitive price that should bring in a crowd, as the more you eat the cheaper they get. And it’s hard to beat the Surf’s two-for-one happy hour that runs all day, every day.