The Red Bar reigns

Hangout location has been popular with locals and tourist for years

Deborah Wheeler | 315-4432 | @WaltonSunDeb |
This undated photo of Grayton Beach shows the old general store, which evolved into the Red Bar. SPECIAL TO THE DAILY NEWS

Located at the back street in Grayton Beach's old section rests possibly South Walton's most popular hangout.

The Red Bar never fails to attract locals and visitors alike on any day or night of the week.

The bar and restaurant is always crowded with familiar faces.

Opened as The Red Bar on Super Bowl Sunday in 1995. The building, however, has a much older and varied past.

The original building was built before World War II and was operated by the Butler family as a general store and dance hall during the summer when visitors would come.

Teens grew up dancing to popular music on the old juke box and sitting in the old booths where they etched their names or initials.

Kelly Buzzett is one of those.

"I have fond memories of going there when I was growing up, and now I live a block away and am still making memories there," she said. "My sons worked there."

Another who grew up there was Van Butler III, whose grandfather built it.

"I used to have my birthday parties there," he said. "It was like an arcade with pinball machines and a pool table at one time. It was fun. I spent most of my childhood there. Grandpa used to say 'they danced so much the sand wore the floor out.'"

The old building was expanded a couple of times and the music found there these days is live, but its funky feel and fun environment has kept it as popular today as it was in the old days.

Folks living in neighboring towns look forward to the Sunday drive out to The Red Bar, and long-time visitors would not think of vacationing here without making the obligatory trip to The Red Bar, where the music is loud and the lights are dim and red.

The Red Bar décor might be described as gaudy with torn bar seats, velvet sofas, posters hanging from the ceilings, unusual lamps, melted candles and an atmosphere reminiscent of the '60s.

It's a place you can relax and dance if you like.

The bartenders know your name and the limited menu is consistent, presented to diners on a chalkboard.

Proprietor Oliver Petit said that coming from a family of restaurateurs, his only thought in opening the Red Bar was wanting a place of his own.

"I really wasn't thinking that far ahead, so, it is a surprise to me that it is so popular," he said.

Petit credits the food, the music and the atmosphere for its success.

"It's the total package and I focus on putting my best effort into it," he said. "I love the building and what I do. I will be there as long as I am allowed."