Replacing an iconic restaurant that had been part of the downtown Palm Harbor dining scene for years can’t be easy. But if anyone can pull it off, Rick Clowes can.
Clowes has owned the building at the corner of Nebraska and 11th Street -the spot where Billy Jack's Burger Shack had been operating for the past three years- since 1978.
In 1998 he opened the casual Mexican eatery Demer's Den at the spot and ran it until 2005 before getting out of the business for a while.
But now, after a lease disagreement led the owners of Billy Jack’s to relocate to Largo in August, Clowes is ready to jump back into the restaurant business full force when he opens Grumpy’s Tap Room within the next few weeks.
“I didn’t really want to get back into it again, but at the same token, I’m kind of glad,” Clowes said, “I own the building…and I know I’ll take care of it, so I’m glad it worked out the way it did.”
Clowes has been in the restaurant business on and off for most of his life, working everywhere from fine dining establishments to greasy spoons all across the globe. He knows what it takes to make a restaurant a success, and he plans on applying that formula to Grumpy’s.
“What we’ll go by is the FFC rule, which is fast service, friendly people and clean surroundings,” Clowes said. ”We’re not going to be high end by any means. We’ll have good food, reasonably priced beer, great service, all in a casual, clean atmosphere.”
Construction is currently in high gear, with new tile being added to the kitchen and bathroom floors, new decorations and paint being applied inside and out, and new flat screens being installed inside.
Food will remain classic bar menu fare – burgers, wings, salads, etc… – with some new items as well. In addition to a $1.00 domestic draft beer special, which will run until 7:00 p.m., Grumpy’s will also offer a slew of additional higher end brews, including Stella Artois, Bass Ale, Harp and others.
Clowes says the place will have a beach bar feel, crossed with an Irish tap house and sports bar. He will stick to the format that has been so successful at that location for so many years.
"I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel here," he says.
There will be live music on the patio four nights a week and pets welcome at all times (no snakes!), making Grumpy’s a place where patrons will be able to relax and soak up the laid-back, downtown Palm Harbor vibe.
In fact, Clowes plans on having a flip-flop tree on the patio for those who wish to really kick off their shoes while.
“I’ve been in this business, and this area, for a long time. You have to know what the location, and the current economic times, can handle,” he says.
“The people who come to Grumpy’s are going to get good food and drink at reasonable prices, in a friendly atmosphere with a place so clean they’ll be able to eat off the floor.”
Note: Clowes plans no grand opening at the launch of Grumpy’s Tap Room. Look for it to quietly open on a Monday in the next few weeks.
Are you curious about the new location of Billy Jack's Burger Shack? We're working on a story about the restaurant, which moved to Largo.