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Stay Local: Hot Music, Cool Nights

Survival of the Fittest on Pensacola Beach
By Kate Peterson

Labor Day was just the shot in the arm the beach needed, helping bars and restaurants to make it through the worst summer on record. If we landlubbers are having a hard time surviving these financial hard times, can you imagine having a business that relies on discretionary income?

Pensacola Beach bars and restaurants, along with all the people they employ, do just that. It is hard enough to sell anything right now, let alone persuade visitors to come from another state, stay on the beach and spend their money.

These days, every article you read tells you how to save money on a vacation or, even worse, a “staycation.” The incentive of $100 for each night’s stay didn’t last long. Responding to this state of affairs, we have some creative, strong, positive people in charge of these beach establishments, and they are not going to let an oil spill keep ‘em down. They have put years of hard work into producing many popular events, along with food and drink specials to chase away the anytime blues.

The beach bars and restaurants are happening places all year, but this year they have had to respond to many unexpected challenges. Cooler months are when you can enjoy nice breezy evenings, less humidity and the best sunsets. So what are the beach’s bars and restaurants doing to combat the loss of revenue from the devastating oil spill, on top of the fact that people have less money to spend on entertainment? Keep reading for the fall highlights.

A large sign with the image of a piano and the words “Live Music” invites you to take a closer look at the Paradise Inn on Via De Luna Drive. As you approach, you see the lovely beach, pier and Santa Rosa Sound beyond the Paradise Bar & Grill. What could be better than this combination? Outside the seating area of the bar, someone has lettered the names of all the bands booked for upcoming shows in 3-D chalk, and the bartenders are gracious enough to give you a pair of glasses so you can read it.

It is shortly before 11 a.m. on a Tuesday, and Lindsey Stanley is prepping the bar for another warm day serving cool drinks. The other servers are working on prepping the day’s food specials. Paradise Bar & Grill is featuring a nightly dinner special, says Lindsey, who is spending her sixth summer serving locals and tourists.

“We were headed for a record year, but we are still holding our own,” she says. “I feel positive that it will be a good one.” Lindsey talked about something else that is a mainstay of Pensacola Beach—a real camaraderie among the bars, restaurants and hotels. Anyone looking for something unavailable at Paradise will be directed to another establishment.

Paradise Bar & Grill employs about 13 people year round. Lunch and dinner specials are offered every day, and happy hour is from 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

Paradise has a full calendar of music in store for October and more coming through the winter. Manager Renee Mack’s love for music and deep connections with Louisiana pay off in exciting choices. The October schedule features: The Hushpuppies, Sun Dogs, Ben Prestage, Nouveau Honkies, Honey Island Swamp Band and The Sauce Boss, as well as separate Halloween costume contests for adults and children. Go to paradisebar-grill.com to view the music calendar and menu and to book a room. Paradise offers a special hotel room discount for locals.

Paradise Bar & Grill employees appreciate that locals are coming out in full force to show their support, and this is a resounding theme throughout the entire beach community.

“We depend on the locals to get us through the winter, and more so now than in the past,” says Peg Leg Pete’s manager Shawn Lynn, who has a six-year history with the restaurant.

“With revenue down, more locals are coming out to show support.”

Peg Leg’s has been open since 1991 and employs about 120 people year round. A true locals’ favorite, it is known for great quality food. Weekly specials keep everyone coming back: Fish Taco Tuesday also features half-price bottles of wine; $.35 raw oysters on Wednesday; and baked oyster specials on Thursday. Food specials continue throughout the year with a daily lunch and dinner special. Lunch specials run from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. daily and showcase oyster, shrimp or grouper nugget baskets. The dinner special at Peg Leg’s highlights a seafood item not on the normal menu. Go to peglegpetes.com for more information, including the live music schedule.

As Beverly Campbell, manager of the Sandshaker says, “We keep something going all the time to keep the locals coming out.” The Sandshaker has been open for 37 years and knows how to keep the excitement going. The Shaker’s weekly lineup includes: Monday—B.A.R.E. Night and Texas Hold’em 4 Fun (half-price for bar and restaurant employees, 10 a.m. until close). Tuesday features Karaoke with Becky, 8 p.m. until close. Wednesday is Ladies’ Night with $2 for all drinks, followed by Zumba and a karaoke/dance party. Thursday is T-shirt Night with Tim Spencer (half-price drinks when you are wearing a Shaker shirt or hat). Friday, Saturday and Sunday all feature live music.

Events during October and November are: Oct. 14, starting at 9 p.m., De Luna Fest Kickoff Party; Oct. 15-17 De Luna Fest weekend; Oct. 23, fourth annual Charity Poker Tournament, 3-7 p.m., and Full Moon Party starting at 9 p.m.; Oct. 30, Halloween Party starting at 9 p.m., with cash and prizes; Nov. 6, Hot Pursuit 5K (sponsored by the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office) post-race party. More information can be found on their website: sandshaker.com

The Dock on Pensacola Beach is taking advantage of its large size to become the premier football venue. “If you are a Saints fan, then this is the place to be,” says manager Bruce Parris.

Although the bar’s revenue is down, The Dock expects a good turnout for De Luna Fest, with other events planned along with football to get them through the winter. There are 14 flat screen TVs, and when the Saints play, the specials include $.35 wings, a $1.50 hot dog special, a bucket of beer special (five beers for $15), as well as a free shot for every Saints touchdown. Halloween is also a big event at The Dock each year, complete with a costume contest. “We want to provide a laid back environment and a great view,” says Parris. Information about The Dock can be found at myspace.com/thedockpensacola.

Robert Gleim, general manager for Bamboo Willie’s, says that, although business has been trending down after Spring Break, Labor Day was a huge boost—the best in eight years. Bamboo Willie’s has been open for 12 years this year, and they are planning to keep the energy high by providing events and specials throughout the colder months.

Gleim is very positive about the winter, expecting that the opening of new hotels will attract more people to the beach—and that is a good sign. Starting Friday, Oct. 8, there will be an 80s Retro Night with a DJ/VJ Shadow show beginning at 8 p.m. every Friday in October. Oct. 9, from 3-6 p.m., Oktoberfest will be presented in association with Sam Adams, and band The Shiz will start at 9 p.m.; Oct. 10, Amigos go onstage at 3 p.m.; Oct. 16, Buzzcut plays at 9 p.m.; Oct. 23, Ultra Violet at 9 p.m.; and Oct. 30, The Big Halloween Bash with Mo Jiles playing at 9 p.m. Visit their website, bamboowillies.com, for more information.

According to Seamas Hunt, owner of Paddy O’Leary’s, his business is just fine, thanks to dedicated locals. He added that an increase in business from all the oil spill workers nearly made up for the loss in tourist revenue.

Paddy’s has a Black and Gold Club honoring the Saints and the Steelers with extra specials when those teams play. Every Monday they have live music starting at 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays are karaoke nights, featuring $5 Irish Carbombs. Wednesdays Paddy’s has Open Mic Night, which starts at 9 p.m. Every weekend they have live music on both Friday and Saturday nights. Sundays & Thursdays they have Texas Hold ‘em poker at 7.p.m. For more information about Paddy’s, visit paddyolearysirishpub.com.

Will Eberlin, the owner of Bullfeathers, says that he is in the process of planning a live music schedule. Bullfeathers has been open since February of 2009, and is known as a family-friendly establishment.

Having been in the restaurant business on Pensacola Beach since 1996, Eberlin knows the off-season well, and stresses that the focus is on the locals. “They keep us in business,” he said.

Long ago, a wise man told Eberlin that, if you take care of the locals, the locals take care of you. “The great thing about locals is that when they have family and friends in from out of town, they take them to their favorite places. You want to be one of those favorite places.”

Bullfeathers currently has a nightly dinner special, and the rave reviews are coming in about the steak special. Fresh seafood specials are offered as well. Sunday brunch runs from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and features $.99 mimosas and $2.99 freshly-made Bloody Marys. Bullfeathers is located on the Portofino Boardwalk. Information can be found about the restaurant with a Facebook search for “Bullfeathers.”

The beach bar and restaurant owners and employees are working hard for the money and relying on all of us to keep that special place going throughout the winter. Take your friends, your family and yourselves out to Pensacola Beach for some cool drinks, great food and hot music.

There are many more great places to explore on Pensacola Beach. Go to visitpensacolabeach.com for more information.
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