GRAYTON BEACH, Fla. - Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, a popular vacation stop is returning. When the Red Bar was destroyed by fire in February, locals and those of us who had made the restaurant and bar, an annual part of our vacation, felt a sense of loss. Standing on the street watching his place of employment burn, server Johnny Murray said, “It is just a tragedy to see what has just happened.”
Daniel Ulhfelder lives in South Walton. He remarked, “Without the Red Bar, there is no Grayton Beach." It was a local piece of Florida panhandle history off scenic Highway 30A. Mark Gorbett lives in Grayton Beach. He choked back tears when he said, “Red Bar is an icon and more than that Ollie and the whole Red Bar, Red bar family is a family. It's um, they've been more than just neighbors they have been family to Grayton Beach."
The iconic Red Bar was gone. “It can't be replaced but it can be rebuilt,” Gorbett said. One of the owners said they would be back. Life goes on. And it does. Hundreds of people gathered at the spot recently where the Red bar once stood. “For me especially it was more than a business,” Olie Petit told our sister station WMBB. He’s the owner.
Petit scattered some ashes from the destroyed building before breaking ground to rebuilt. “I'm still grieving the place and it was a way for closure and to honor the place and from the ashes can the rebirth occur,” he said. Remembering the past but looking to the future. “Happy or good, there's always changes around the corner and right now we're entering the happy days and I'm looking forward to it," Petit said with a smile.
And what’s new, will be old. “We're following the architecture to the T,” Petit said, “The only thing that will be improved is the bathroom. We're expanding the men's and women's but otherwise, you will have that same familiarity when you enter the restaurant.”
The owners hope to have Red Bar open for business by Memorial Day of 2020. “She was the heartbeat of Grayton Beach,” Walton County resident Rene Endres said. And she will be again.
Sammy Sanchez, with the South Walton County Fire District tells us the state fire marshal's investigation shows the fire that destroyed the Red Bar was electrical. But they could not determine exactly where it started.