Prospective Downtown Lounge Owner Wants to Revive Classic Cocktails

Revival Cocktail Co.Jeannie Weaver wants to bring a new concept to downtown Lakeland: a sophisticated craft cocktail lounge that doubles in the daytime as a spot to grab a coffee drink, a sandwich to go or a ready-made picnic basket.

Weaver, 32, finds out soon if her idea for Revival Cocktail Co., a subdued, no-smoking lounge at 119 S. Kentucky Ave., is a go;  the Lakeland City Commission takes up a permit Weaver needs on Monday and votes on it Aug. 21.

The conditional use permit has already gotten unanimous approval from the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority and the Lakeland Planning and Zoning Board.

Once she gets the go-ahead, Weaver said, she hopes to open Revival Cocktail Co. by November.

The lounge will occupy a 2,600-square-foot building with 15-foot ceilings that once held Evolution Records and more recently Just Costumes.

It will be decorated in a style Weaver calls “Southern Industrial Chic.” A rolling library ladder will slide behind a wall of Charleston bricks behind a concrete bar.

Seating for 60 or 70 will be arranged to promote conversation and creative collaboration, Weaver says.

The Revival in the name is meant to recall a mid-century era of sophisticated cocktails in clubs where people could talk comfortably without shouting over jukeboxes or games of pool. Unlike those mid-century lounges, smoking will not be allowed.

In fact, Revival will be the only non-restaurant lounge in the downtown area where smokers can’t light up, Weaver said.

What else sets Revival Bar apart from other high-end drinking establishments downtown, such as Frescos across the street, the Terrace Grille, the newly opened Lakeland Loft and Posto 9 rooftop lounge (just recently put on hiatus until October because of heat and rain) or the upcoming Mojo BBQ-and-bourbon spot in the Federal Building?

“Nobody else has the craft cocktail the way we want to do it,” Weaver said, explaining she’ll use special glassware and shaped ice, tinctures, bitters, high-end liquors and seasonal, fresh herbs.

Creative concoctions will be supplemented by moderately priced mixed drinks, wines by the glass, and domestic and craft beers, she said.

A limited food menu of small plates is planned: charcuterie, cheese platters, sandwiches.

Any music will be subdued, Weaver said. She’s planning a curated Spotify playlist and possibly occasional acoustic live music. Vinyl LPs on the wall will pay homage to Evolution Records.

During the morning and early afternoon, Revival will cater to downtown workers and visitors who want coffee or grab-and-go lunches.

The Prodigal Coffee cart that’s situated next to Born & Bread at the Saturday curb market downtown will serve coffees and teas inside the front of Revival weekday mornings and afternoons starting at 7 a.m.

Prepackaged sandwiches will be available for office workers who need to get back to their desks; picnic baskets with food, drinks and fun items like Frisbees and playing cards will be available to take to places like Lake Mirror; customers can rent the basket itself and return it or take their picnic away in a bag.

While the emphasis will be on take-away items during the early part of the day, “people can hang out,” Weaver said. She told the Planning Board last month that she wanted to make sure the storefront didn’t remain dark during the daytime.

Weaver, who grew up in Fort Meade, has lived in Lakeland for the last seven years, and spent most of that working at the Linksters Tap Rooms in downtown and Highland City, where she was manager for awhile.

What does her former boss, Eric “Bro” Blevin of Linksters, think of her setting up shop around the corner? “Bro has been my biggest supporter,” she said, noting that the two bars are completely different. “He’s been a mentor. He vouched for me at the LDDA.” Belvin is a member and former chair of the Downtown Development Authority.

Weaver declined to name her financial backers.

She’s renting the space from Mayfair Apartments of Lakeland LLC, who bought the building in February for $315,000.

The Kentucky Avenue property is the first downtown holding of Mayfair, which formed in 2014 and owns about 10 houses in neighborhoods near Lake Morton and Lake Hollingsworth. Mayfair’s principals are Wesley Barnett and Ryan Lopez.

LDDA Director Julie Townsend supported Revival when it came before the city Planning Board: “This is going to be a good addition for downtown,” she said.

Ellen Simms, owner of Two Hens and a Hound next to Revival, said she welcomes her new neighbor. “I really like what Jeannie’s got going on,” she said. “It sounds like a neat concept … a place I would enjoy going.”

But Simms said the opening of another downtown bar raises concerns she shared with LDDA board members when they considered the Revival application.

“The LDDA is interested in creating downtown as an entertainment district, but I don’t believe anybody has thought through the infrastructure,” she told LkldNow. “The city needs to be sure there is adequate policing, garbage pickup and what I call the externalities — all the stuff we don’t like to step in, see or smell when we come to work the next morning.”

A strip of Kentucky Avenue storefronts that once housed several retail businesses is down to three, Simms noted: her business, Got Candy & More and Urban Appeal. Nathan’s Men Store is around the corner.

When Revival’s application was discussed at this morning’s City Commission agenda study session, Commissioner Edie Yates spoke of hopes that the explosion of downtown nightlight options will convince retailers to stay open some nights.

But Commissioner Don Selvage, a member of the LDDA board, spoke of tension between retail and entertainment businesses and said, “It may be eventually that retail is north of the railroad tracks and entertainment is south.”

Commissioner Jim Malless said he’s seen a shift away from a college audience downtown as establishments “elevate” food and drink options, allowing for an increase in rents.

The Revival agreement the City Commission will consider: