Software entrepreneur Jesse Biter wanted a place downtown to have a beer after work with friends and co-workers, but the 36-year-old just couldn’t seem to find the right hangout.
Mattison’s on Main Street often is too crowded for him. The Sports Page is closing to make way for condos. Smokin’ Joes is, well, too smoky.
So Biter decided to build his ideal place himself.
Biter, a multimillionaire who has acquiring downtown properties over the past few years, intends to develop an outdoor sports bar adjacent to his four-story 1680 Fruitville Road building, home of the HuB business incubator.
The working name? The “HuB PuB.”
“I’m not in this to make every dollar I can,” Biter said this week. “The whole idea is conversation. I want to create a place where everyone can go have a drink after work.”
For Biter, who runs a company called Dealers United from his building’s top floor, the open-air taproom on Second Street will formalize a current practice: He keeps a beer kegerator in the lounge of his office, and it has become a 5 p.m. gathering spot for the building’s workers.
He hopes the pub will be a similar nexus for congregating, and a place where people will come to watch a big game and enjoy some suds.
“We’re just going to let it evolve and see where it goes,” Biter said. “It’s just a place to hang out. The goal is to get people walking here downtown, when they get off from work.”
Biter purchased the site — a former Bank of America parking lot — for roughly $400,000 in August 2012. He plans to invest another $350,000 to build the bar.
Designs for the 7,500-square-foot outdoor pub include a slew of high-top tables, palm trees and other native Florida vegetation.
A covered bar will anchor the center, with flat-panel TVs and projector screens lining interior walls.
Biter plans to model the place after a bar called The Patio, one of his favorite Tampa watering holes.
Although HuB PuB does not plan to serve food, the bar will have an electric golf cart on hand to fetch carry-out orders from a handful of nearby restaurants.
The HuB PuB is the latest in a series of planned downtown projects for Biter, joining a 180-unit apartment complex also on Second Street, site of a United Way building.
In addition to the HuB building, Biter also owns space in Marina Tower, ground-floor retail in the city’s Palm Avenue parking garage and a handful of Main Street storefronts. He has invested roughly $10 million downtown to date.
“He’s proposing things that are definitely different,” said Ian Black, whose commercial real estate firm has represented Biter on many of those deals. “The bar is a whole new element that fits into his vision. There’s not a lot of places for that younger demographic to hang out.”
Because the bar requires city approval, a public input meeting has been scheduled for 5:30 p.m. April 16 at City Hall. It will also have to pass muster with Sarasota’s Board of Adjustment, Planning Board and City Commission.
If it clears its city hurdles, Biter said the pub could open as early as September.