From the outside, looks like it could be an insurance company office or a bank, thanks to its mirrored glass exterior and nondescript, boxy shape.
But open the door to the new sports bar and grill, which is located in the Oakbrook Plaza off McMullen Booth and Enterprise Roads and you might be surprised at what you find inside.
The interior is spacious and tastefully decorated with lacquered wood tables and a number of new flat screen TVs, and the right-hand side is dominated by the kind of long, expansive bar that can be a dream for patrons to sit at but a nightmare for bartenders to navigate.
The whole place emits a comfortable, classy vibe that is at once new yet familiar; new because it’s a brand new facility, and familiar because it is the third Norton’s location in the area.
“We’ve got a good following from the other two bars,” general manager Justin Pagliuco said. “We do things the Norton’s way… But at the same time, this place is totally different from the other two. We’ve built our own clientele.”
Indeed while the Norton’s name may have helped get people in the door, Pagliuco knows the reason why this location is going to be successful is because the area, and the bar itself, is so different from the others.
“We’re an adult sports bar, and we’re not trying to be anything else. It’s a place where you can come to have drinks and dinner, hear live music and a good time. There aren’t a lot of places like this in the area… So we feel like we’re going to be this area’s next big thing.”
If the grand opening is any indication, his statement will come true sooner rather than later.
With just a few weeks to prepare for the grand opening after the Super Bowl, Pagliuco and his staff put together a shindig that drew more than 1,500 people last Saturday, headlined by popular local group the Black Honkeys.
“People compared it to a mini-Woodstock. It quadrupled what we expected for a turnout,” he admitted. “But the best thing about it was it went off without a hitch – not one problem the whole night. That’s the kind of customers we have.”
Norton’s has always prided itself on its customer relations. Started by Jim and Donna Coughlin just across the street in 1992, they relocated to Dunedin in 1998, where it became a popular neighborhood bar known as Northside.
In 2005 , located off of Drew Street in Clearwater, opened; it's smaller than the other two but “busy all the time”, according to Pagliuco.
Eastside, which officially opened in December, is different from its siblings. It’s bigger, it’s brand new, and it’s smoke-free.
But the one thing that’s consistent is the friendly service and inviting atmosphere that Norton’s is known for.
“We’re a very tight-knit, family organization. You walk in the door here and you’re going to feel comfortable,” Pagliuco said. "We make you feel welcome every time you come in."
With three directions already covered, we had to ask if there will be a Norton's Westside debuting in the future.
While Pagliuco couldn't comment on what the Coughlin family might do, he knows that whatever direction they decide to go in, they should find success.
"The other two bars have been successful, so we know this one's not going to fail. If they decide to open another one, I'm sure that one will succeed, too."
Take a sip:
Norton's Eastside Sports Bar & Grill
2455 N. McMullen Booth Road, Suite A
Hours: from 11 to 2 a.m. Sunday to Thursday; from 11 to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday.