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Bar Tab: Bars to watch in 2014

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Helmsley Sandcastle Pool Bar on Lido Key WT

Kelly Firestine cheerfully commands The Helmsley Sandcastle Pool Bar on Lido Key and makes delightfully potent drinks like this Golden Margarita. STAFF PHOTO / WADE TATANGELO

Here’s my list of bars to watch in 2014. Many have the potential to become major players, while others might be struggling to make it through season.

Blu Mangrove Grille: Loved this waterfront place off the Manatee River as Bella Mia Grill, especially the happy hour deals that included a delicious pizza for $2 (yes, you read that correctly). Expectations are high now for its recent replacement, Blu Mangrove Grille. To be fair, I won’t hold it against the place for charging a bit more for pizza.
102 Riviera Dunes Way, Palmetto; 479-7827; blumangrovegrill.com

Bob’s Boathouse: Like pretty much everyone else who enjoys drinking in Sarasota, I had big expectations for the reincarnation of Bob’s Boathouse on Phillippi Creek. Figured the place would be an instant hotspot. Then we reported a few weeks ago the bar is being threatened by unpaid bills. Here’s to hoping it’s just a case of bad accounting and not something worse.
5515 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; 312-9111; bobsboathouse1.com

Broadway Bar: A Sarasota icon, the charmingly old-school Broadway Bar happens to be one of my favorite places in town to sip a vodka and tonic and nosh on a sandwich with my amazing wife Kristin, or a bunch of friendly strangers. So, yeah, I got a bit worried when the place closed for a few days in October over a sales tax dispute. Dear Broadway Bar: Please don’t get into any more sales tax disputes!
1001 Cocoanut Ave., Sarasota; 953-4343; broadwaybar.com

Darwin Rendering

Rendering of Darwin Brewing Co. at 803 17th Ave. W. in Bradenton. (Provided by Fawley Bryant)

Darwin Brewing Co.: Judging by the rendering unveiled in September and Darwin’s first-rate reputation, Darwin Brewing Co., the offshoot of Sarasota’s best brewpub, Darwin's on 4th, will be the perfect place to grab a quality beer before, and after, watching a baseball game at cozy McKechnie Field. The production brewery and its tasting room are scheduled to be open in time for spring training.
803 17th Ave. W. in Bradenton; darwinson4th.com

The Helmsley Sandcastle Pool Bar: Kristin and I have many favorite watering holes but The Helmsley Sandcastle Pool Bar is definitely at the top of our list and for many reasons, some of which involve our wedding. So, yeah, we were seriously saddened at the recent news that its home, The Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel, which we also love, is for sale and being marketed as a site for luxury condominiums. Silver lining? We are hoping someone very rich buys The Helmsley and decides to not change a thing. Not so? How about a Lido Key Tiki Bar-style miracle. Back in 2001, developers of the Ritz-Carlton’s Beach Club on Lido Key planned to demolish the beloved Lido Key Tiki Bar, adjacent to the old Azure Tides resort to make way for their new place. Thankfully, The Ritz developers decided to keep the famed bar open to the public in response to major community support. Now come on people, let’s save The Helmsley! Or at least its pool bar.
1540 Benjamin Franklin Drive, Sarasota; 388-2181; helmsleysandcastle.com.

Motorworks Brewing: In late November, I was walking through the Village of Arts in Bradenton and stopped by Motorworks. The sign outside the big, almost-finished building read: “Opening December 2013.” It’s not open yet. But when it does, I expect big things. In addition to being a production brewery, it’s promising a beer garden, live music and other cool events.
1014 9th St. W. in Bradenton; 896-9892; motorworksbrewing.com



Wade_Tatangelo_by_Mike_Lang_HT_06212013 Wade Tatangelo created what would eventually be called Bar Tab while working as a correspondent for the Herald-Tribune in 2003. He would continue writing about bars for Maxim, Tampa Bay Times, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, OC (Calif.) Weekly and The Fort Collins (Colo.) Coloradoan. Wade joined the Herald-Tribune as a staff writer in 2013 and has happily returned to writing our weekly column Bar Tab. He can be reached by email or call (941) 361-4955.
Last modified: December 31, 2013
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