If you haven’t visited Clearwater Beach recently, you might be surprised at all the new bars and restaurants that have sprung up on the island, especially on north Mandalay Avenue.
In just the past year, at least five eating and drinking establishments have a foothold on Clearwater’s most popular slice of real estate. And with more eateries under development, the business boom on the beach appears to be just beginning.
What’s New to Eat?
The first new place hits you right in the face at the end of the causeway: a two-story Hooters that towers over the northeast corner of Mandalay. began in late 2011 and, according to Hooters chief marketing officer Denise Williams, is tentatively scheduled to open the week of May 21. It will house a Ron Jon’s Surf Shop on the ground floor, leaving the top two for Hooters.
New tropical sports bar Toucan’s is a couple hundred yards north of the incoming Hooters, on the east side of Mandalay. It has a wide-open floor plan that is both beachy and upscale. It opened a few weeks ago after a long period of development. It offers island-themed dishes and premium drinks with a chic, sports bar backdrop.
“This location is phenomenal,” bar manager Stefan Malatesta said “It’s right in the middle of everything.”
Cigar Lounges Find a Home on the Beach
Where there used to be just one, there are suddenly three.
Owners of the original at the corner of Mandalay and Baymont Street, Ernie Hernandez and his wife, Lisset, opened an upscale offshoot adjacent to the Hilton in November.
Havana Exclusive Cigars II It boasts Cuban sandwiches, imported beer, leather couches and, of course, cigars. Hernandez hopes it can capitalize on the popularity of Hooters as soon as it opens.
“We want to grow with the beach…because when that Hooters opens, it’s going to boom,” Lisset Hernandez said.
The Havana shops have competition from Fusion Cigar Lounge, another chic cigar establishment with a prime location next to popular sports bar in the Pelican Walk Plaza. The cigar lounge recently celebrated its one-year anniversary.
Owner Diogenes “Dee” Aguasvivas believes the time is right for these new entertainment options.
“The scene is pretty great down here right now,” he said. “The north beach is coming up big time. All these new places are going to help us a lot.”
Mixing the Old With the New
Construction is underway on Union Burger/Coffee Culture, a Canadian franchise that will occupy the former home of the Beach Bar. Numerous other properties are vacant or in development.
The new spots, coupled with existing establishments such as the Lobster Pot, the , and the Frenchy’s empire, combine to make the drinking and dining options on Clearwater Beach diverse and desirable.
According to Darlene Kole, president and CEO of the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce, all this new business is an encouraging sign of growth for the beach.
“Hooters, Ron Jon’s, Toucan’s and others are just an example of new neighbors joining our successful beach businesses,” Kole related via email. “Many new businesses are opening and new outdoor dining cafes are popping up.”