Pensacola’s dive bar Sir Richards set to open in 2022 with upgrades
Some say the smoky air and quirky karaoke nights were all part of the Sir Richards experience.
Now that the popular dive bar is undergoing a major makeover, its new owners say the atmosphere will remain when the business reopens in early 2022, albeit now as a non-smoking establishment.
When Pensacola restaurant owners Patti and Derek Sonnen bought the neighborhood spot at 2719 E. Cervantes St. just months before COVID-19, they knew its more than 50-year lifespan would mean it needed a little more attention than a simple coat of paint.
The pandemic-related closure has become the perfect opportunity to dive wholeheartedly into construction, with the goal of reopening on January 1, 2022.
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The Sonnens have been in the restaurant renovation process several times before, repairing and taking over what are now the locations of the O’Riley’s Irish Pub at 321 S. Palafox St. and 3728 Creighton Road, as well as Mugs & Jugs at 12080 Scenic Highway. Their son, Warren Sonnen, handled every addition.
Warren Sonnen said that with each purchase, the family has gone to great lengths to maintain the integrity of the original business, capturing the same vibe and appeal of a place while adhering to all city codes. .
He said local landmark Sir Richards was no different. When the former owner approached his family to sell, they knew Sir Richards would be in good hands.
“They knew we would stay true to the tradition,” said Warren Sonnen. “We had no desire to rename it or rename it.”
While some of the keys to that atmosphere will be here to stay, like the twice-weekly karaoke nights or the ongoing pool games, the renovation process turned out to be a bit more “aggressive” than expected.
For example, the carpet got so stuck to the floor over time that it took a month to come off, he said.
Likewise, the walls had also absorbed so much of the smoky haze that the locals had come to know and love, they became the next on the list to be replaced.
All the pieces that could be kept were, such as the original mirrors that will be hung up in the interior rooms.
Warren Sonnen said the place will feel recognizable and familiar to those who were regulars years ago, but his family will enhance the old English style of the place. The slightly more chic name of Sir Richard’s Public House will also reflect more elegant changes to the interior, such as locally sourced antique furniture.
Additions to the physical space are also being built, such as an outdoor patio that will expand seating options for guests.
Customers will also have the option of ordering from a UK food truck parked outside. The main offering, a family recipe for fish and chips, will be identical to the classic appetizer served at O’Riley’s. Other menu items will be available.
The place will start to draw a crowd outside of just drinking, but will be a viable option for those just looking to stop for a bite to eat in the neighborhood.
“I really believe Sir Richards is going to be a highlight for this part of town,” he said.
Drinks will also reflect the more sophisticated style with a menu of classic cocktails served in glasses. Despite the improvements, Sonnen said his family strives to be competitive with their prices and to be an affordable drink option in the area.
He said the place tends to be known for its heavier pours and extra strong drinks, which will now be measured more accurately. But the establishment will always serve quality drinks in a cost-effective manner.
Warren Sonnen said his biggest concern was taking something out of the community for so many years, but said the renovations would only help preserve it. He said he didn’t see the place disappear anytime soon.
“There are a lot of people who are passionate about their bar,” he said. “There is no end in sight for Sir Richards.”
The hours are planned to be the same as the other Sonnens restaurants, open every day from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.