It was 2020 and COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the restaurant industry.
Restaurants around East County either closed temporarily or went under.
At Ed's Tavern, though, co-owners Albert Myara and Bob Bender said it was a key time in terms of growth for the restaurant.
"We kept all of our employees," Myara said. "They were loyal to us afterward."
Bender said the growth of Ed's Tavern has mostly been a steady upward path for most of the 10 years they have owned the business. That is except for a positive spike in business during the pandemic.
"We really took off when COVID started," Bender said.
The increase in business was so prolific, the co-owners felt confident in opening a second Ed's Tavern, this one just off the intersection of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and Upper Manatee River Road. That restaurant held a grand opening on Jan. 20.
While much of their attention has gone into getting the new restaurant open, Bender and Myara wanted to figure out a way to thank the community for their 10 years of success at Main Street at Lakewood Ranch. They went to Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, their landlords, in November to ask if they could close down Rodeo Drive in Main Street at Lakewood Ranch for a block party in February.
"We have had a great relationship with SMR," Bender said.
So on Feb. 17, that party will be held to celebrate their 10 years running Ed's Tavern.
The family-friendly event will run 3-7 p.m. on the street with a DJ providing the music, balloon artists, face painters, cornhole and Jenga games. There will be lots of giveaways, such as passes to play at The Fish Hole miniature golf course next door. The popular regional band, Kettle of Fish, will play from 8 p.m. to midnight inside the restaurant.
John Breiner founded Ed's Tavern in Lakewood Ranch in 2008 before selling to Bender and Myara. Ed's Tavern had been the name of a business in Breiner's family since the early 1930s. It started as Ed's Grocery in Saddle Brook, New Jersey, before the family moved down the street at open the first Ed's Tavern in 1935. Ed was his great uncle, the late Ed Wilczynski.
The Ed's Tavern success story continued with the new owners, who are appreciative.
"We felt compelled to do something," Bender said of the 10-year celebration. We wanted to give something back.
Inside the restaurant on Feb. 17, there will be a nod to Breiner's family history. "Jersey Classic" items will be offered at 2014 prices. Disco Frieds will be $5.99, fried pickles will be $4.99 and a Jersey Classic sandwich (ham, eggs, cheese) will be $7.99. Bottles of Bud Select will be $1.50. There will be other specials at 2014 prices as well.
Myara said he originally had a contract to own the restaurant by himself, but he decided to bring Bender, who had significant experience as a restaurant manager, into the deal.
Myara was asked if he has been surprised the restaurant has done so well.
"Surprised?" he said. "No. It was Bob's hard work. Nothing happens without hard work."
Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.