Banana Boat Boss Guiding Club Back to the Future
With an industry expert at the helm, the Roosevelt Boulevard bar is aiming to recapture the popularity of its heyday.
Club consultant Angelo Proestopoulos has done it all when it comes to the bar and restaurant business.
In addition to being associated with Bay area establishments such as Tail Gators, Café 13 and gentleman’s club 24K, he also played important roles in the Chuck E. Cheese's and Ruby Tuesday franchises and managed a number of hotspots in the bustling Miami club scene.
In fact, Proestopoulos is so well known in the industry, the back of his business card simply states "Everybody Knows Angelo."
So when he says he is going to bring the Banana Boat back to prominence, you pretty much have to take him at his word.
“This place has been a staple in the area for over 30 years,” the 39-year-old explains. “Grandparents, parents and their kids have been coming here ever since it was located over on U.S. 19.”
“But people don’t know what the Banana Boat is today," he says. "That’s where I come in.”
Back to the Future
After purchasing the place five years ago, owner Bobby Venniro relocated it from the U.S. 19 frontage road to the corner of Roosevelt Boulevard and 58th Street North.
But the move caused the bar to suffer an identity crisis, as many people continued to associate the corner spot with previous establishments that occupied the location, which included a bikini bar and a strip club.
“The bar has been many different things,” Proestopoulos says. “People still come in and say, ‘I thought this was a strip club.' I was brought in to see what we can make of the place, to give it some direction.”
After being named general manager nine months ago, Proestopoulos immediately started implementing new ideas that ranged from incidental to monumental.
In addition to giving the place a casual, Tiki deck theme, he also changed the menu to include fresh and original food items, added drink specials and entertainment options and went out of his way to make every patron feel welcome.
One Door Closes, Another Opens
That welcoming philosophy will come in handy as Banana Boat prepares to invite in the loyal crowd of the recently closed New York New York nightclub, which had been a home for older clubgoers for nearly 30 years.
“I heard rumors the club was closing last year,” Proestopoulos relates. “So about 2-3 months ago, I started thinking about moving the New York New York crowd to the Banana Boat.”
“I started telling the regulars, 'When you’re ready to switch, we’ve got a home a home for you',” he says, even going so far as to hire four former New York New York bartenders and the club's longtime DJ.
Only time will tell if the move pays off. But already a number of former New York New York patrons have come in to scout out the new location, many praising Proestopoulos' efforts.
“I’ve been going there for 20 years,” New York New York patron Lauire said. “But I’m all for the switch. Angelo is so smart, he’s going to make it work, and we’re going to make it work for him.”
Says Proestopoulos of the revamped Boat: “What we have here is a diamond in the rough. It’s a beach bar, it’s a restaurant, it’s a rock bar, it’s a club.
“All I’m asking is that you give us a chance.”
Banana Boat Bar & Grill
Address: 5858 Roosevelt Blvd., Clearwater
Hours: 11 a.m.-3 a.m. daily