Goodbye Growler’s. Hello Mable. Tyler Yurckonis and Mark Caragiulo reinvent Sarasota’s most artful watering hole.
The Mable has a surreal, funky beauty to it — at least on the inside. On the outside, you’d never guess.
It’s a pub, in a strip mall on the North Trail, right by Ringling College of Art and Design. To clear up any lingering doubts on its identity, giant illuminated letters on the metal mansard roof spell out: P U B. That makes it easy to find, even at night. But the pub’s core clientele could find it with their eyes closed.
These patrons comprise a fair contingent of students and professors from RCAD, and enough artists, musicians and nonconformists to fill the pages of a Thomas Pynchon novel. They know where to find it, but they’re not entirely in agreement about what to call it.
The awning along the side reads “GROWLER’S.” But a smaller sign below it reads “The Mable.” That’s the pub’s new name. But most of my arty friends still use the old one.
Mark Caragiulo and Tyler Yurckonis rechristened the pub when they bought it in March. Caragiulo is part of the band of brothers behind Caragiulo’s and Owen’s Fish Camp; Yurckonis is the brains behind The Starlite Room.
So what’s in a name?
Yurckonis agreed to explain the mystery at open mic night. The parade of talent begins at 10 p.m. He’d show up as soon as possible after squaring away The Starlite Room.
So, there I sat, notebook in one hand, digital recorder in the other. Studied the crowd. Got up. Bombarded a musician with questions in hopes of a future article. Ed Knaust, a guitarists and background of Ship of Fools — a boatload of musicians following in the wake of the Grateful Dead, and one of the pub’s standbys.
Knaust left. I returned to my solitary table.
Studied the restaurant. That surreal funky beauty I’d mentioned previously. A hippy vibe, or so it struck me. Walls full of art, including Bill Buchman’s line drawings of the female form. Two old-timey chandeliers, comfy couches. It all looks like it’s been here forever. I know it hasn’t. If memory serves, the walls were black, the décor generic. And there used to be a pool table.
My meditation ended. And the parade of talent began.
Alexandra Foster (taking time from her duties as “beertender”) played selections from her latest album, “Puzzle Pieces,” on the ukulele.
Bang Couch followed up, a two-man group with a contemporary heavy metal vibe — not sure how to narrow that down. (Nu metal? Nu nu metal?)
After that, Joshua Dee made haunting sounds with the theremin — one of the first electronic instruments. The strains of “While My Guitar” emerged in thin air.
Yurckonis emerged in the pub during the 15-minute break. And I immediately posed my question.
“Why the name change?”
“Why not?” he laughed.
Then he explained.
Let’s say Mable Ringling had a guesthouse. A cozy place apart from her main house where she kept her most edgy artwork and hung out with her closest friends. The pub in which we sit? This is it. (Let’s say.) After Mable died in 1929, her heirs closed it up. The place stayed dormant, untouched and forgotten. Decades later, two plucky restaurateurs found it and turned it into a bar and called it “The Mable.”
“It’s pure fiction,” he smiles. “But that’s the idea.”
The new owners have big plans for the place.
Caragiulo and Yurckonis have kept what works at the pub formerly known as Growler’s. That includes a killer selection of craft beers and microbrews, and a crowd-pleasing weekly schedule. That said, they’re not shy about making changes. Along with some fine-tuning, they plan to add one key missing element: a kitchen.
When Yurckonis says it, “kitchen” sounds like a magic word. And his eyes gleamed when he said it.
Any chance they’ll ever make The Mable look shiny, antiseptic and sterile?
“No. No chance at all.”
That sounds pretty definite. An end-of-subject kind of tone. But Yurckonis has more to say.
“We don’t ever want to be upscale. We want this place to look like a dive! A nice dive, a dive you’ll enjoy and won’t have to take a bath afterward. But a dive all the same. Here, you will never have to dress up. I promise.”
And that truly is the end of the subject — and the end of the break.
I think I see both of my sisters at the door. Over on the tiny stage, Chase Thomas twangs the opening chords of a Willie Nelson tune. It sounds pretty good to me.
And Yurckonis’ promise does, too.