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Smitty's Pub & Grille shuttering after 27 years on Manatee Avenue West

Smitty's Pub & Grille, 3812 Manatee Avenue West, is closing on May 15 after 27 years in business.on Thursday afternoon. The establishment is known for its chicken wings and cold beverages and regulars. Owner Greg Smith is throwing a big closing party at the pub Friday and Saturday. 
 RICHARD DYMOND/Bradenton Herald
Smitty's Pub & Grille, 3812 Manatee Avenue West, is closing on May 15 after 27 years in business.on Thursday afternoon. The establishment is known for its chicken wings and cold beverages and regulars. Owner Greg Smith is throwing a big closing party at the pub Friday and Saturday. RICHARD DYMOND/Bradenton Herald

MANATEE -- Just like "Cheers," the TV show bar in Boston where everyone knows your name, Bradenton has had Smitty's Pub & Grille.

"I know everyone there," Smitty's regular Chris Pratt, a Bradenton attorney, said Thursday. "Instead of 'Norm' like on 'Cheers,' they yell 'Chris' when I come in. Some of us have grown old with those people."

Pratt and hundreds of others are in mourning because Smitty's Pub & Grille, 3812 Manatee Ave. W., is closing May 15 after 27 years.

Smitty's owner, Greg Smith, told his employees that May 15 is indeed the last day and to prepare for one last hurrah for all the loyal customers, bartender Jason Weed said Thursday.

"We're having a huge party both Friday and Saturday nights to celebrate," Weed said.

Smith didn't immediately respond to inquiries about what might follow the restaurant at the building, which Smith is renting, or what he plans to do in the future.

Pratt said he used to eat lunch nearly every day at Smitty's and retire there after work for a cold beverage.

"This is a Bradenton institution," Pratt said. "They may not be as long-standing as the Shake Pit nearby, but it still ranks right up there. This is very sad."

Many Bradenton professionals still eat lunch at Smitty's nearly every day.

"There is a lunch group," Pratt said. "Jimmy Clements, Bob Hendrickson and others. The food is good. They have a less expensive bar burger and a bigger half-pound monster burger."

Known for the extra big and extra hot chicken wings, which are celebrated with their own "wing night" on Tuesdays, Smitty's is both a restaurant and a full liquor sports bar with strategically mounted large TVs, which usually are alive with sports of all types.

But the appeal of the place goes beyond the food, beverages, floors, walls and ceiling, Pratt said.

"Greg has been there a long time," Pratt said of Smith, a musician who plays in a band. "What he did with Leonard Aldrich tells the kind of man he is."

Aldrich, who passed away recently, was Smitty's long-time chef and Smith kept him on the payroll after he could no longer work.

"People forget that it was a very good restaurant on one side," Pratt said. "At a Christmas party there I had the best prime rib I ever tasted. Leonard cooked it."

Although Smith has not officially revealed his plans, Pratt figures after 27 years of closing a pub at 2:30 in the morning and then cleaning up until about 4 a.m., it was time for a breather.

"I know he has grandchildren he misses," Pratt said.

As for those wings, Pratt says he orders a dozen "Wow" style wings, which are hot but not the hottest variety, which are "Opies."

"I had Opie once and as the wings approached my mouth my eyes began to water," Pratt said. "I love hot foods, but I could only eat two Opie wings. The wings I get are 'Wow' style and you will sweat when you eat them but they will clear your sinuses. You can actually taste the heat."

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.

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