OKEECHOBEE COUNTY — Over the past nine months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the people at Back to Butch’s Bar on U.S. 441 Southeast had to shut down due to the governor’s order in March for just shy of three months, then open again for a few weeks in June, close once more, then reopen again.
The closings affected all of its employees with lost wages and tips, and the bar’s owner joined a class-action lawsuit this past summer against the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation, its secretary and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over the shutdown orders which is still pending, now seeking damages from the state.
But Jeffrey Kennedy, who owns the bar and was leasing the space from Yannucci Investments LLC of Sebring, used the time to plan his purchase of the nearly 2-acre mobile home and RV park from that firm, which he said was completed on Oct. 31.
One of his main reasons was to get rid of the former RV park lessee and manager who he said had been harassing him during his whole tenancy of the bar and leasing properties in the park to problem tenants. He said there were frequent police visits and that code violations were the subject of complaints.
On Friday, Nov. 27, Kennedy brought in local companies’ crews to clear out one particular problem, an old mobile home trailer that had to be demolished, across the driveway from the bar and attached 17-slip mini-marina.
In taking out the decrepit trailer, Kennedy and partners thus made room for three more RV sites in the park. He wanted to salute the businessman who helped make it happen, Michael Maguire, owner of Maguire’s Bobcat Service Inc. and Maguire’s Hauling Inc. of Okeechobee.”
“I like to keep my business local,” Kennedy said.
Among the other improvements being made are installation of a new sign along U.S. 441 because Kennedy has renamed the place as Back to Butch’s Adult R.V. Park & Bar; replacement and reinstallation of a septic field near the highway that’s “got to be redone” after the recent installer left it in non-code-compliant condition, he said; and “I’m dropping another septic (field/tank) here (on the demolition site) to handle the three new sites.”
He’s now actively soliciting new renters, but only those with 2005 or newer RVs, and all-adult tenants in the park.
“I have a new roof; and I’m adding to the bar and tiki since I’m now responsible for it.
“Also, on Monday,” he announced, “we have new people taking over the bar. Vincent “Vinny” Hetrick (owner of Hetrick Electrical Consultants LLC in Okeechobee) is going to take over the bar; I’m just going to be leasing it out. I’m stepping back and concentrating on this park, and this floating tiki right here.”
(This interview took place on Butch’s Tiki Tours vessel.)
He said of Hetrick, “He’s the only one I actually trust enough that cares enough about this place to keep doing what I’ve been doing. He’s very knowledgeable, and he’s going to be a big help for me.”
Kennedy said that after the events of the past few years, he wanted to set a new direction.
“It’s too much stress for me. I have too many irons in the fire. And I have lot of money tied up here — my life savings is here.”
Even so, he wants to make it an even better place to live and visit.
“I’m going to do a food truck as well. A site will be dedicated to the use of a food truck, and we’ve got one coming in January 1st,” he said.
He also plans promotions soon of the Tiki Tours, which are available to the public.