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The Bar Tab: Chester's Reef gives Gulf Gate its dose of tiki

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Light the tiki torches and bust out the leis. The dark bar formerly known as Boar’s Head Lounge got flipped on its ear a month ago and the beachy Chester’s Reef is now open for revelry.

If you weren’t among the Bud-carrying partiers at the four corners New Year’s Eve party in Gulf Gate who watched the ball drop from Chester’s roof, you might not know about this new oasis. Let me clue you in.

On Dec. 3, the full liquor bar with its Polynesia-meets-Southwest Florida décor introduced itself to Gateway Avenue. Sharing the same 10,000-square-foot space is the much smaller Hair of the Dog Saloon, which will hold its grand opening in February but is already stocked with regulars. In essence, Chester’s and Hair are two for the price of one (figuratively) and each has its own ambiance.

“We’ve undergone lots of changes since the old Boar’s Head,” said general manager Brad Deardorff, adding that Ken and Josh Chester own the place. “We’re not dimly lit any longer. No more fight nights, just a lot of friendly people having a good time drinking, laughing and talking. Our customers have said they’re impressed with what’s been done, not only to the building, but with the friendly staff.”

Mary Beth Woodward

Mary Beth Woodward, whose business card reads “professional intoxicologist,” is among the friendly folks slinging beverages.

“I’m super excited about all the changes here,” Woodward said. “It’s time.”

Big change: Chester’s is wide open, and that’s the first thing you’ll notice upon pulling into the locale. Garage door-like entrances that are rolled up to accommodate the fresh air lure passers-by to barstools.

Hair of the Dog is its own separate entity and “a little more rustic,” as Deardorff described it, but we won’t get into that now (wait a month). Chester’s is lively, with nautical rope wrapped around the pillars, bamboo wall coverings, colored string lights, gold tinsel and upside-down beer bucket hanging lamps.

Bar manager Phil Pender pours me his signature libation -- a “Tic Tac” with Three Olives Rang-Tang Vodka, triple sec and some energy drink mix that tastes just like the tiny orange candy.

I glimpse the eight pool tables, dartboards, 15 flat-screen TVs and DJ stage as Deardorff tells me about his big event in January. Starting at 9 p.m. Jan. 13, the Chippendales will do Chester’s. There’s a $12 cover plus $22 for single seats, right in the action.

Phil Pender

If you can’t make it for that one, I send you my condolences. But stop by any eve of the week for a packed Chester’s calendar.

Happy hour is from noon to 7 p.m. Sunday through Saturday, with reduced prices on wells, wines and drafts. Monday has all-night happy hour and Tuesday is “happy hour karaoke.” Wednesday is ladies’ night with two-for-one deals and an 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. free-drink block. Thursday offers specials for service industry professionals, DJs spin on Fridays and Saturdays, and Sunday is all about football.

On regular draft is: Bud, Bud Light, Michelob Ultra, Drifter Pale Ale, Stella Artois, Coors Light, Newcastle, Blue Moon, AmberBock, Strongbow, Michelob Ultra, Yuengling and Miller Lite, and prices vary. Check the Facebook page for hours.

“We’re always looking for feedback, so come by and tell us what you think,” Deardorff said. “We think you’ll have a good time.”

I know I’ll be back on Jan. 13. Good times? Check.

Last modified: September 13, 2013
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