An Irish pub anchors the new restaurant-catering service at Cleveland Heights Golf Course, and city officials are optimistic that their fourth private partner providing clubhouse cuisine will be their lucky charm.
Today is the soft opening for 1916 Irish Pub at the Cleveland Heights clubhouse. It’s modeled after a business by the same name in Plant City.
That’s because there’s common ownership. Chuck Jamieson of Seffner, part owner of Plant City’s 1916, is also 80 percent owner of J&M Gulf Coast, which won the city of Lakeland’s contract to run the food operation at Cleveland Heights after being the only company responding when the city sought vendors.
The three previous contracts the city had with restaurateurs over the last few years ended earlier than expected because of financial difficulties.
Jamieson, 44, said he has an extensive background in food and beverage service and in golf course operations. He started his career at Old Memorial Golf Club in Tampa, where he spent about 10 years, he said. He, along with two co-workers then branched out to start Duke’s Brewhouse in Plant City. In 2016, they opened 1916 Irish Pub, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Ireland’s struggle to break free from England’s rule, he said.
He has plans to return Cleveland Heights’ restaurant to its historic role as not only a stop for golfers but a neighborhood dining spot and a venue for weddings, bridal and baby showers, birthdays and other celebrations.
Only about one-third of the 10,000 square-foot space is being used by the restaurant/bar, Jamieson said. In addition to the main dining room/bar area, there are two other rooms and a veranda that together can accommodate about 300 people for catered events provided through Second Plate Catering, he said.
Founded in 1923, Cleveland Heights Golf Course and its clubhouse “was a staple of the neighborhood for generations,” Jamieson said.
And it will be again, Jamieson said. “We are going to spend thousands to make it an event space competitive with what is available elsewhere in Lakeland, even in Tampa and Orlando,” he said.
“As people build new memories, they will embrace it and it will again be a legacy place,” Jamieson said.
Following the closure of Bosko’s Clubhouse Grille about two weeks ago, there will be a soft re-opening of the restaurant today with a limited 1916 Irish Pub menu and beverages, mostly to provide services for golfers, Jamieson said.
The city has committed $5,000 to replace carpeting and paint the interior during the next 30 days, said Bob Donahay, city parks and recreation director. And Jamieson already has installed flat-screen TVs above the bar, he said.
Eventually, the menu will duplicate that of his 1916 Irish Pub at 2309 Thonotosassa Road in Plant City, Jamieson said.
There, beverages include soft drinks, craft beers and cocktails, along with Irish beers and whiskey.
The food menu features sandwiches – including a Reuben, a corned beef and an Irish stew sandwich – a variety of flatbreads and small plates that range from salads to shepherd’s pie and smoked fish spread or a hummus platter.
The city-owned golf course has taken a big financial hit this past year while the mid-century irrigation system was replaced and a force main line is under construction, Donahay said.
During a budget meeting Monday, city officials discussed the amount of park department subsidies that keep Cleveland Heights operating and what can be done in the long term to drop the planned $1.1 million subsidy in the 2020-2021 budget back to the $800,000 subsidy before the irrigation project started.
Mayor Bill Mutz said the eventual goal is to create enough success over the next few years drop the annual subsidy to $500,000.
Donahay said that could be done through a combination of increased use of the 27-hole course and increased rents made possible by success of the restaurant/catering business and its beverage cart service on the golf course.
But, Donahay said, city commissioners and the public need to understand that there is no golf course in Polk County that makes money on its own. Across the country, golf courses are subsidized, whether by government funds, homeowner associations, club dues or other means, he said.
“We are going to do all we can to make it the best course around,” Donahay said. “But it is a park. We subsidize all our parks – the tennis courts and Common Ground across the street, Kelly Rec Center, Lake Parker Park.”
Even with improvements at the Cleveland Heights course and at various other courses around the county, “Polk County golf is still Polk County golf,” Donahay said. “If the fee gets over two $20 bills, people go somewhere else. People shop. You make your money January through the middle of April.”
Recognizing that there is always a summer slump in restaurant revenue from golfers, the city will give Jamieson a break on rent each May through September.
The five-year lease on the clubhouse began Monday and has three additional five-year options.
To get started, J & M will not pay rent for July, August or September, then will pay $4,500 a month for October and November. Next January through April the rent will be $4,750 a month, then will drop to $2,500 a month, returning to $4,750 monthly in October through the rest of the year.
Beginning in January 2021, the rent will be $5,000 a month during the busy fall, winter and early spring then drop to $3,000 a month during the slack summer season.
In January 2025, the contract amounts will be renegotiated.
Under the terms of the lease, the restaurant/bar must be open at least 60 hours a week and provide two meals daily – lunch and dinner. It will continue to provide services at various charitable golf tournaments, receiving corkage fees.
During the budget hearing, Commissioner Phillip Walker asked why the city staff expects Jamieson to be successful operating the restaurant when the three previous operators were unable to make it financially.
Donahay said that Jamieson has extensive experience in restaurant and bar operations, catering and golf courses and has a defined business plan that will tap into the special events market. Already, Jamieson has started advertising, something the previous tenant did not do, and has installed sports bar TVs, he said.
“This is not his first rodeo,” Donahay said.
Commissioner Stephanie Madden wanted assurances that the waitresses would not be wearing the skimpy costumes used at some of Jamieson’s other establishments. Donahay said that has been covered and Jamieson understands this is a family-friendly neighborhood spot.
Commissioners unanimously passed the lease agreement Monday afternoon.