Two years ago, I was lounging at a then-new Daiquiri Deck on St. Armands Circle, talking with the bar manager about the watering hole’s intent.
“We’re trying to bring a younger crowd to the Circle,” he told me as I sipped frozen beverages on the terrace after walking upstairs from the Lido Key shore.
Last Saturday night, in the throes of Bar Tab déjà vu, I headed to downtown Venice for the latest installment of the Daiquiri Deck (the third in the area, following the Circle spot and the pioneering Siesta Key location). Venice’s version opened on January 2 on West Venice Avenue, and on the night of my arrival, it was littered with young professionals.
The bartender immediately carded the adjacent patrons and me. To watch several revelers pulling out driver’s licenses instead of AARP cards was a refreshing site for Venice. Not to be cute, but let us be honest, this stretch of landscape is more known for perching snowbirds than partying spring breakers.
“I think Venice is growing and changing, and more younger people are moving here and spending time downtown,” says floor manager Rudy Polderman. “That was part of the reason we wanted to open in Venice, to fill that need.”
I can vouch for the fact that the need exists. And so far, it seems, the Deck’s 250 seats are staying warm. Whether the daily hours of 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. generate a steady flow, I cannot say for certain, but Polderman says he is pleased thus far.
Deckers are digging the happy hour from 3 to 7 p.m. with live music like steel drums and acoustic guitar, as well as the two-for-one daiquiris, well drinks and discounted beers. Ladies’ night is from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. with $1 small daiquiris, wine and champagne, and $2 domestic drafts. There is a live DJ onsite from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. every Friday and Saturday.
Even on non-event nights, the ambiance offers enough of an island-y vibe to make patrons want to linger. Flat-screen TVs are mounted above the blue, yellow, black and mauve-speckled mosaic bar. The signature teal and purple décor complements the exposed ceilings and shell/concrete floor. Mixologists don black T-shirts that read “RAWsome,” and the nubile bartenders provide a touch of eye candy (in the most non-offensive way, of course).
I started my eve early, which helped me quickly snag a two-hour parallel parking space on West Venice Avenue. I sunk into my chair and ordered my favorites – menu standards that have not changed much from the other Deck addresses. I tend to veer toward the New England-style lobster wrap with dill mayonnaise for $14.95, and the Deck Diesel and the Bushwacker on the 12-daiquiri menu. One of the 25 drink combinations is the Smurf with a mix of pina colada and electric lemonade, which I had never sampled. I was feeling nostalgic for my 1980s childhood, so I kept to that.
All the while, I kept thinking: “There are other people here tonight who grew up watching ‘The Smurfs,’ too.” Good going, Venice.