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New Changes Set for Pensacola Beach Boardwalk

Big changes are taking place at the popular Pensacola Beach Boardwalk Shopping Center. 

Lucas' Where Locals Go, a new restaurant and bar, has replaced the Cactus Flower Cafe Mexican restaurant.

Renovation for a new, 4,900-square-foot Ron Jon Surf Shop is underway across from Lucas' at the former site of Envie Boutique and The Wine Bar. Meanwhile, Envie has relocated to a smaller space on the waterfront in place of Salty Beach Outfitters.

It's all part of the overall vision of Robert Babcock, CEO of Premier Island Management Group. Babcock's company oversees development of the beach's main shopping and entertainment district. 

Babcock said his goal was to promote a friendly environment with good food that would attract local residents. He started with Lucas Moore, longtime manager of The Wine Bar on the beach. Moore, who is well-known among beach residents, had built a large customer base at The Wine Bar, which has now been replaced by his new venture, Lucas' Where Locals Go.

"We challenged Lucas to make this his own," Babcock said during an interview inside the new space. "He pretty much took it to the next level."

Moore has created a warm environment with a menu that includes plenty of comfort food offerings as well as large selection of wines and craft beer.  He is especially excited about Sunday brunch, which will included the always-popular bottomless mimosas. 

"I like developing relationships with customers, spending time with them and getting to know them," Moore said. 

Heem Chee, vice president with Premier Island Management, touted Lucas' locally sourced menu items. Chee said the restaurant went out of its way to work with local fishermen and other vendors. He especially likes the tuna sashimi and grouper. 

Although Lucas' has been open for less than two weeks, the restaurant has already had many repeat customers, Moore said. 

"I am proud of that, I want to be a gathering spot for people out here on the beach," Moore said.

At the former Wine Bar location inside what will now house Ron Jon's, Moore estimated about 75 percent of his customers were from the local area. He thinks his new space will attract about 60 percent local customers and 40 percent tourists. Either way, he said, to succeed he will need to rely on repeat customers and a strong word-of-mouth reputation. 

With other changes talking place at the Boardwalk Shopping Center, Babcock said it made sense to move Envie, an upscale men's and women's clothing boutique, to the former Salty Beach Outfitters location. Babock said Salty Beach had similar offerings to Ron Jon's, which is expected to open this spring. 

But Envie is the only upscale clothing boutique on the beach, he said. 

"We are trying to cater to the community and find the right mix of what people want out here," he said. 

Representatives from Cactus Flower did not return phone calls Monday about their decision to leave the boardwalk.

Melissa Nelson Gabriel can be reached at mnelsongab@pnj.com or 850-426-1431.

 

 

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