PaddyWagon Irish Pub grows to 6 locations with Braden River Plaza opening

Popular Sarasota-based pub marks its first entry into the Friendly City

cschelle@bradenton.comOctober 3, 2013 

BRADENTON -- It's always sunny at PaddyWagon Irish Pub. The Sarasota-based bar chain now has a Bradenton location.

The pub, which began on Clark Road in Sarasota in 1996, is now open at 4402-1 State Road 64 E. inside the Benderson Development-owned Braden River Plaza.

Ed Smith, no relation to the namesake of the Sarasota stadium, moved from suburban, snowy Detroit where he ran three Irish pubs to open up the newest PaddyWagon as a franchise owner.

Moving from Detroit wasn't a difficult decision.

"You don't have to shovel sunshine," said Smith, a veteran of the bar business for 17 years.

Besides Smith has been family friends with managing partners Tom Elliott and Rich Kunzle for more than 20 years.

PaddyWagon is part of the Linksters Tap Room family of bars, based in Sarasota, which also includes Legends Sports Pub and Smokin' Joes in Sarasota and The Old Venice Pub. The Bradenton pub is the sixth PaddyWagon location, with others in Lakeland, Davenport, Tampa, Port Charlotte and Sarasota.

The only other Manatee County bar in their chain is Linksters at the Shoppes at University Town Center off of Cooper Creek Boulevard.

Now, Manatee County is primed for additional PaddyWagon or Linksters locations, Elliott said.

"We fully anticipate Manatee County to be a great market, and expect to have tremendous success," Elliott told the Herald.

Elliott admitted it was tough at first trying to enter the Manatee County market in 2004 with Linksters, but it's much easier to start up a business now in Manatee and Bradenton thanks to a streamlined process credited to John Barnott, director of Manatee County Building Development Services and Brady Woods, development services and zoning manager for the city of Bradenton. The process used to take seven months to get through the necessary paperwork, he said.

The mission at PaddyWagon in Bradenton is no different from its sister locations -- simply provide a friendly atmosphere.

"Ours is just a neighborhood bar concept, and we just try to do it a little better than the next guy," Elliott said. "We like having all the bells and whistles and have a wow factor so when customers come in here, they feel comfortable."

Smith said the bartenders should know customers in quick time and know what drink they'd like in short order.

"I think the staff is hugely important," Smith said. "They're friendly, get to know the customer's names, and be knowledgeable."

It seems that there's always something to do inside PaddyWagon's 1,800 square feet. In addition to a billiards table, dart boards and arcade golf, the bar features TapTV trivia. Instead of asking the bartender for a handheld controller to play trivia, people can download the TapTV app on their smartphone or tablet and play while watching the TV screens above the bar.

PaddyWagon is a smoker-friendly bar, but equipment pumps in fresh air and filters out the smoke and smell. One of its filtration systems, called Smoke Eaters, has been featured on Spike TV's popular series "Bar Rescue."

The compressors pump fresh cold air into the bar and create an envelope of cold and hot air to capture the smoke and push into other filters.

To help with the air circulation, the bar installed a 9-foot ceiling fan, Elliott said.

"They move the air of eight or nine ceiling fans, and it's a dramatic look and a dramatic function," he said.

Your reliable bar specials and events are here, too. In addition to the 17 flat screen HDTVs, a 12-foot projection screen is on its way for NFL games on Sundays, which feature food from Casa di Pizza.

"We do beer specials, drink specials, and we set up a free buffet," Smith said.

The bar has a 1,000-square-foot patio to catch the game, too, with five flat screens under the shade.

Of course, people come for the beer as much as the ballgame. PaddyWagon has 23 beers on tap including a rotation of seasonal craft beers. New Belgium Brewing's Ranger IPA, a new entry into the Sarasota-Manatee market, is on tap, along with Cigar City Brewing and Dogfish Head. The autumn brews are proving to be popular as PaddyWagon is featuring Dogfish Head Pumpkin on tap, after quickly selling out of Cigar City's Good Gourd, Smith said. More kegs of the limited-release beer are on their way, he added.

The bar will offer a service industry night for restaurant/bar workers on Sunday nights with 20 percent discounts, Smith said. A text club for discounts from the pub will send out messages for buy-one, get-one specials if customers text PWAGON6 to 30364, Elliott said.

Smith started vacationing on Siesta Key in the 1980s and thought he would eventually would want to move to the Gulf Coast of Florida. He came down in June to take the leap, trusting in Elliott and Kunzle.

"The numbers don't lie. This is the 18th store. They're very successful at what they do, and I really trusted their knowledge on the location," he said. "The feedback's been fantastic."

PaddyWagon Irish Pub is open noon to 2 a.m. daily.

Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.

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