When these guys head out for lunch, there’s no complaining, no chain restaurants and no notice on where they’ll end up.
At a table at The Ugly Grouper on Holmes Beach, six men sat in identical sky blue shirts.
The word “ROMEO” was printed on the backs of their shirts.
This group, however, was not about to drink poison to seal their fate with their supposed soulmate.
Instead, they were about to drink a different kind of poison, one arguably better than that featured in the Shakespeare classic. Beer.
This group of ROMEOs is better known as “Retired Old Men Eating Out.”
It’s that simple.
Every Thursday, a group of men gather outside the Spanish Main Yacht Club clubhouse. One of them decides where the group will dine that day. The destination is a surprise until 11:30 a.m., then the group carpools to its lunch spot.
Lou Salemi, a Spanish Main resident, helped found the group 13 years ago.
“I would see some guys and wonder who they were and some of the ladies would get together, and I thought, ‘Why can’t the guys get together?’” Salemi said.
To keep the group organized and the mood light, the men established a list of 16 rules. Among them: Chain restaurants should be avoided; complaining is not allowed and no drinking is allowed until all members have their beverage and a traditional salute of tapping glasses has been done.
The group settled on the name ROMEOS after trying out a few others, such as REMOTE, or retired elderly men out to eat.
“It’s a bunch of guys getting together, having lunch and having a good time together, and that’s basically the bottom line,” Greg Fiore said.
Fiore, who has been a member for at least five years, said it’s fun not knowing where the destination is until a few minutes before the meal.
“It’s always a little surprise,” he said. “We try not to pick the fast food restaurants.”
Their conversations range from sports talk and ribbing each other to politics and health issues.
“I’ve learned things about life, basically,” Joe Amato said. “How everybody handles their own way of doing things, their own story, what their activities are.”
Amato, who is one of the few men who doesn’t live at Spanish Main, joined through a neighbor. He continues to meet up with the ROMEOs for the friendship and camaraderie.
“It’s just a fun group,” Amato said.
“We go out, just enjoy ourselves for a couple of hours then we go back to our homes and continue on with enjoying retirement.”