Chase Palmes said half the fun of opening his new St. Johns Tavern on Citrus Avenue was transforming a 100-year-old building in need of big-time renovations into an inviting place for folks to relax.

It took almost exactly one year to complete and the public can see the hard work he put into it when the tavern opens tonight.

Once the renovations were complete, he added some of the neat other stuff  sure to be attention-getters for tavern patrons: including a 1956 phone booth — that Palmes moved here from a sorority house in Massachusetts  with an actual working rotary phone. And when you enter the establishment, heads up and you'll see an actual 1926 Harley-Davidson mounted on the wall.

The building at 572 N. Citrus Ave. has sat empty for at least four years. In various other incarnations, it was Lucille’s Grocery Store and Gators Sporting Goods.

The 54-seat St. Johns has 20 beer taps, including popular craft beer. 

Palmes started the renovation project in Nov. 19, 2018. So for the past year, it’s been hard work sand-blasting the walls, adding new flooring, improving the entrance and doing myriad other things.

But it’s been fun, he said.

All along, Palmes said he wouldn't open until everything was perfect. 

The old red-green-pink interior walls are gone, replaced with a burnt-red hue. The dark woods inside add to the esthetics of the place. And if patrons want to enjoy the outdoors, they can take their drinks to the patio in back.

Palmes said St. Johns will offer New York-style sandwiches and burgers and Charcuterie (meat and cheese) platters.

Michelle Fayette will be the general manager of the tavern, which will employ about 20 people. St. Johns was Palmes’ mother’s maiden name and he decided to use it for his new business.

Palmes, former owner of Lollygaggers in Crystal River, said he’s pleased at the enthusiasm the city council has for building up the downtown area.

“I see an opportunity down here,” he said.

Even though St. Johns is nestled in the very heart of the downtown tourist section, Palmes wants locals to know they have a new place to go.

Crystal River City Administrator Ken Frink returned the compliment and said Palmes is a “fantastic business partner with the city.”

“The investment he’s made in the community is just amazing,” Frink said.

Given his location across from the planned town home square, Palmes should do well, he said.

 

Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-3205 or mbates@chronicleonline.com.