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Longboat Key Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016 5 years ago

Giacomo's Bar and Lounge kicks off Sunday

The long-awaited Giacomo’s Bar and Lounge in Whitney Beach Plaza is counting down toward a grand opening on Super Bowl Sunday.
by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

North-end residents have been waiting to raise a glass once again at a watering hole in Whitney Beach Plaza since 2010, when Tiny’s of Longboat closed its doors.

But after five years — and countless rumors, many from eager bar patrons — Whitney Plaza is finally poised to celebrate the opening of Giacomo’s Bar and Lounge this Super Bowl Sunday.

Co-owners Ryan Lugo and Dr. Giacomo “Jack” Guggino, who is a pediatric ophthalmologist and the owner/founder of Tampa-based Giacomo’s Cigars, have been working since 2014 to open the first of what they hope will be several Giacomo’s bars.

A soft opening for the bar is scheduled for Friday night, and the first official opening day is Sunday, Feb. 7. Hours and Supers Bowl specials are still being worked out, Lugo said.

The 1,500-square-foot bar with 65 seats has what Lugo calls “a rustic look that reminds me of a classic wine bar while also making you feel like you’re hanging out in your dad’s man cave watching the game.”

The bar will have five high-definition televisions and 15 beers on tap. Although obtaining a liquor license is still an eventual goal, the bar will only serve beer and wine to start.

“We took our time with this,” Lugo said. “We wanted to bring something to the Key that’s new but also caters to the dedicated locals and vacationers that miss having a bar here.”

Lugo, a former deejay and record producer who has never run a restaurant before, said part of the two-year process has been “learning the ropes,” which included everything from the build-out of the bar to learning bar operations and deciphering what he’s allowed to construct through town codes.

Lugo, who announced a plan for an eventual pizzeria and separate cigar bar smoking area two years ago, said those concepts are still in the works. The bar will sell Giacomo’s Cigars in the meantime.

Lugo said he’s negotiating lease space for an additional 1,600 square feet (the site of the former Tiny’s bar) with half of that space taking up Giacomo’s Pizzeria in the front and the other half in the back taking up a cigar lounge.

Lugo also hopes to obtain outdoor dining seats from the town for an outdoor beer garden.

“The goal is for the combination of the three areas to be a destination space where you can spend a day watching the game, ordering pizza and wings from next door and getting a drink at the bar or stopping in at the cigar lounge for a smoke,” Lugo said.

Lugo declined to disclose the amount of money he and Giacomo have invested in the bar but said the investment “is in the six figures.”

Longbeach Village resident and former Tiny’s patron Shirley Beachum said many residents are excited to hop back on a bar stool at Whitney Beach Plaza.

“Everyone has been waiting for so long to get a bar back in the area,” Beachum said. “I’ll raise a glass there when it happens, and I think a lot of other people will, too.”

Lugo is hopeful many Tiny’s regulars come and check out the new watering hole.

“When we talked to local residents, we discovered the old bar was a real piece of history,” Lugo said. “This is about bringing back a piece of that history and making new memories.”

“We took our time with this,” Lugo said. “We wanted to bring something to the Key that’s new but also caters to the dedicated locals and vacationers that miss having a bar here.”

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