Yesterday, powerhouse Tallahassee lobbying firm Southern Strategy Group became the owner of the former Po Boys building in Tallahassee, with an extreme makeover in mind.
The property is steeped in the political culture of Tallahassee, and it will be no less so in its next iteration as a mixed-use project with a restaurant (owned by a lobbyist), offices (for lobbyists), and a residential component (for, you guessed it, out-of-town lobbyists).
Tallahassee regulars will remember this property as a building with a weathered blue 1960s-era façade located on College Avenue about two blocks from the Capitol. Between 1992 and 2013, it housed Po Boys, a casual Cajun dining spot that was the haunt of many Tallahassee politicos.
In fact, we wonder whether the demise of Po Boys wasn’t in some way tied to the incarceration of its most generous customer, former Republican Party of Florida Chair Jim Greer. Greer and another massively proficient omnivore, Delmar Johnson, famously charged the RPOF thousands of dollars over two years as they consumed Po Boys fare, most notably the pancreas-destroying Mud Bug burger for the Chairman.
If Greer needs any evidence that America always allows a second act, the plans for this property should give him new hope.
As reported three months ago, super-likeable lobbyist Jon Costello has launched a Tucker Duke’s Lunchbox in the former Po Boys restaurant space, and after a significant remodel, this Southern-themed bistro is playing to packed crowds. I went by the other day with the hope of scoring one of their fantastic burgers, and the line out the door forced me to wave off until another day.
“Since opening a few weeks ago we’ve been really happy with how the downtown Tallahassee crowd has welcomed us with open arms,” Costello said. “As with any restaurant that’s just opening, we are working out the kinks, but we’ve had overwhelmingly positive feedback about the quality of the food and service.”
“All credit for that goes to Chef Brian Cartenuto and the team he’s put together,” he added.
Joining Costello in the Tucker Dale’s venture as investors are fellow political pros Gary Rutledge, Bill Rubin and Dan Adkins.
Southern Strategy Group has big plans for the property, too.
SSG will build a small suite of offices on the second floor and enough residential space to accommodate up to four lobbyists.
With five lobbying offices located around the state, SSG has an ongoing need to house lobbyists from its sub-state offices during the legislative session. The renovation plans show a startling transformation of the building with a new façade that features balconies for the residents and guests.
This project will continue the gentrification of the area that has benefitted from the tens of millions of dollars in recent improvements in nearby Cascades Park and Gaines Street.
“Property this close to the Capitol is rarely on the market, and we felt that when the Po Boys building became available we had to snap it up so we would continue to have options for growing our firm near the Capitol,” said SSG managing partner Chris Dudley.
SSG already owns an 11,000 square foot office building about a block from the Capitol.
By: Peter Schorsch