On any given Thursday or Friday evening, the bar is packed and spills out onto the patio — which must mean it’s happy hour at Hyde Park Sarasota.
When the owners of Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse, based in Cleveland, realized that the smoking ban in bars could possibly hinder its crowd, they had to get creative.
“Outside of the economic times, part of what we looked at was that many bars were getting rid of smoking so we had to get innovative,” says Matt Berlekamp, general manager of Hyde Park Sarasota. “We thought, ‘OK, bars don’t have same draw as they used to without smoking, so what do we do to drive that kind of interest?’”
Thus, the small-plates-and happy-hour-drink menu was created and has generated quite the buzz.
Due to the recession, though, small-plate menus and happy-hour specials seem to be the more attractive part of restaurants, rather than the more expensive dining-room menus.
“This (the bar) is more consistently busy — we have not seen the same fluctuation in the bar as we do in the dining room,” Berlekamp says. “Adding small plates and cocktails, this brings people in to realize this is an active and festive place in town. Location specific, this is the busiest bar in the company.”
Creating a buzz in Sarasota may not be entirely difficult to do, but retaining it is, and Hyde Park Sarasota still has the happy-hour crowd coming back from week-to-week. Not to mention, many other restaurants in town have followed suit, adding affordable and tasty small plates as well.
Although Berlekamp believes imitation is the best form of flattery, in response to other restaurants offering similar deals, he also notes a difference.
“Hyde Park offers great value for what you get. I believe it’s unique that we’re offering premium liquor in our happy-hour drinks while most other places don’t,” he says.
Hyde Park Sarasota offers a half-dozen small plates — including grilled Angus sirloin sliders, calamari, oysters on the half shell and ahi tuna — for $5, as well as $4 select martinis and cocktails, from 4 to 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close Monday through Friday. Berlekamp notes the most popular selections are the sliders (which is enough for a meal for light eaters) and the Pure martini.
“The bar opens at 4 p.m., and on busy nights, at 10 (minutes) ’til 4 p.m. we will have people knocking on the door.”
IF YOU GO
35 S. Lemon Ave., Sarasota. 366-7788.
BY THE NUMBERS
Numbers on a typical Friday night happy hour in the bar at Hyde Park Sarasota.
• 120 or more sliders served
• 150 Pure martinis served
• 240 small plates served
• 17 bar seats, 35 additional bar seats available and 30 patio seats