It’s not often that a new development comes to SW Second Street, the epicenter of the Himmarshee bar-and-restaurant district.
In fact, since the days of the Stranahans and Mary Brickell, “almost never” would be a good description of when that strip gets new development. So when the workers and equipment go in, it gets noticed.
Now, the finishing touches are being put on a large building in the 300 block of SW Second, between Dicey Riley’s Irish Pub and O-B House. The building will soon house a dining, drinking and dance establishment called OO Saloon – pronounced “Double-O Saloon”.
Beverly Raphael, president and CEO of project general contractors RCC Associates, agrees it’s no small deal.
“It’s such a large, prominent location,” she says. “The space is quite big.”
The land has been in the same hands for several decades, Raphael says. In that time it has mostly been a parking lot, with one small building on the southeast corner. That building has been incorporated into the new development. Like much of the historic neighborhood, the spot offers history that goes back to the area’s early days. “That location was [Fort Lauderdale’s] very first gas station,” Raphael says. “It was built in 1909.”
The owners plan to reveal more about the establishment as it opens; Raphael isn’t at liberty to discuss too much of the project. She can say that plans call for a diverse spot that’s open from 9 a.m. to 4 a.m., with one style for breakfast and lunch, and then more of a nightclub from dinner into the night and early morning.
“It’s very unique and I think people will be very blown away,” she says.
“From the outside it almost looks like a large-scale western saloon, but it’s not.” Inside, they’ve created a space with two DJ stations and plenty of room for different types of space.
“The owner has compared it to being like a drink-and-dance club [of] the 1920s, and then there will be music that will take you through the ’80s,” Raphael says, adding that they’re planning on a Louisiana-style menu. The size of the space allows them to be a little different and have different kinds of entertainment. “I think it is the single largest restaurant in Himmarshee.”
This isn’t exactly RCC’s first foray into high-profile Fort Lauderdale food-and-drink projects; it’s also the company behind places such as Louie Bossi’s, the Cheesecake Factory and Morton’s The Steakhouse. Other high-profile projects are now in the works.
“I think it’s the most exciting time I can remember – I’ve been here a long time – for Fort Lauderdale,” Raphael says.
Development in different sectors fuels each other, and she cites condos, luxury communities near Federal Highway and other residential growth as fueling greater demand for restaurants. Las Olas offers a great example of a changing city, she says. While it used to offer a sort of old Florida charm, it now offers – alongside many ma-and-pa stores that remain – many of the sorts of places you wouldn’t have seen in, say, the ’80s. A place such as Louie Bossi’s symbolizes the big change into a larger area of walkable dining and nightlife options.
“That was huge because that location was further east,” Raphael says. “Where the retail was, [that] was where they were drawing all the walk-by business. I think the city has become much more open and amenable to different kinds of restaurants.”
Louie Bossi’s, Raphael says, has been successful because it provides urbane residents with good food in a fun, social environment.
“I think that’s what 00 Saloon will be, too,” she says. “Himmarshee plays to young professionals who maybe want something different than being right on Las Olas. And they have that option now.”