Customers with a taste for Southern food and live music have a new haven in the Rosemary District. The Blue Rooster is one of several new businesses moving into the district, which was set for growth before the recession hit.
Co-owners Devin Rutkowski and Bill Cornelius describe their venture as a live-music venue and restaurant, and they take pride in the authenticity of both its food and live music.
The restaurant puts its spin on traditional Southern comfort foods, including its signature entrée, chicken and waffles. The venue boasts 24-foot ceilings, a mixing board, house speakers, stage monitors, a sound technician and, according to Cornelius, the best live music in town.
After scouting the Sarasota music scene for the last three years, Cornelius is confident that the venue will satisfy the town’s music-lovers by hosting some of the area’s best blues, bluegrass and roots musicians.
“I think people are hungry for something like this,” he says.
The Blue Rooster is located next to Darwin’s on Fourth Street, and both men say the Rosemary District offered an ideal location to bolster local talent.
“A lot of good musicians have to travel out of town to find a good venue,” says Cornelius. “But, we’re both downtown guys. We want to build up and support downtown. It’s just a tiptoe across Fruitville.”
The men hope the venue will encourage downtown regulars to walk across Fruitville to the Rosemary District, which they’d like to see continue to flourish with new businesses.
“This area, between Orange and Central, has the most available vacant land in Sarasota,” says Rutkowski. “Hopefully, other like-minded people will see what we’re doing and will want to do something, as well. There’s so much opportunity here.”
Other business owners see an opportunity for expansion in the area and are taking advantage of the available real estate.
Christophe Coutelle, and his wife, Geraldine, who own C’est la Vie on Main Street, are in the process of opening a new French café and bakery on Fifth Street, called Lolita Tartine.
The café is scheduled to open in March, in the space previously occupied by the Sarasota Olive Oil Company. Coutelle says he wants the café to be a popular for locals to socialize and relax outdoors.
The owner of the building approached the couple about renting the space for their new business, and Coutelle says he was attracted to the location.
“I love the Rosemary District,” he says. “I really want to see that area become more alive. It deserves to be well-known.”
Coutelle hopes to mirror the success of C’est la Vie with Lolita Tartine, where he can appeal to the area’s artists and architects and help the district flourish.
“Before 2008, Rosemary was coming along very nicely, but then things kind of fell apart,” says Coutelle. “There are a lot of people who really believe in it, and I want to help bring it back to life.”