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The Rebirth of the Red Bar

At a time when most of us have been forced to slow down, at least one area business has been moving full steam ahead.

Oliver Petit, who co-owns the iconic Grayton Beach hangout that locals and tourists alike know as the Red Bar, said he is optimistic the beloved 30A institution will be open in time for the summer season. Ironically, he credits — at least partially — social distancing measures and “safer at home” initiatives with making the rebirth of the Red Bar a more realistic possibility in the coming weeks.

“The crews are having an easier time finding parking out here and getting to the stores for supplies with no traffic on the road,” said Petit, who is partnered in business with his brother, Philippe. “So, those are silver linings, I suppose.

“We were always hoping to be open by Memorial Day weekend or early June and that hasn’t changed. We’re just continuing to work because they’ve allowed us to. There’s no turning back and we’re going to finish this.”

The Red Bar has been a beloved part of Grayton Beach for a quarter of a century. The building itself, before the February 2019 fire, was more than 100 years old and housed various businesses including several restaurants, a store and a dance hall. The fire, which authorities believe started in the Red Bar’s dining area, engulfed the structure. Only a piece of railing from outside the front door remained when the smoke cleared.

Many were skeptical about the timeline for rebuilding the famous hotspot, but a groundbreaking ceremony in October 2019 signaled the start of the rebirth — and a promise for its future. Today, crews are installing reclaimed wood for the ceilings and floors. The kitchen is being tiled. Once the finishing work is completed, Petit has big plans.

“Once the floor is in, I’m going to start putting posters on the wall,” he said.

Petit attributed the combined desire of the community and the financial support with the dedication of their general contractor with the Red Bar’s progress. He also expressed gratitude for the support he’s received from the local government.

“Deron Strickman at Luke & Blue’s (the contractor working on the project), this has just become a pride project for him. We’ve had several situations where he’s been like, ‘Dude, get on with your stuff. You’re slowing me down,'” Petit recalled. “Usually, it’s the other way around and you’re chasing your general contractor, but that has not been the case here.”

Petit said they are tentatively planning a soft opening with family and friends once construction is complete, followed by opening their doors to the community that has become such a part of the fabric of the Red Bar — and vice versa.

“The fire, the brutality of it, just touched so many people deeply,” Petit said. “We’re looking forward to welcoming people back, where they can have a drink and be around others.”


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