The Plant City eatery will be opening its second location this summer on South Florida Avenue.
When Chuck Jamieson and his partners first opened Duke’s Brewhouse in Plant City’s Walden Woods Plaza, he knew it was only the first step. This summer, a Lakeland expansion is the company’s step two.
“Duke’s is the brand we want to focus on. Duke’s is a Plant City original. This is a Plant City brand. ”
— Chuck Jamieson, owner
“We’ve been looking for the right opportunity to branch out and find a second location,” Jamieson said. “The idea wasn’t to get in this business and have one store. The idea was to have … multiple stores.”
The new Duke’s Brewhouse will take over the former housing of the Rib Crib on South Florida Avenue in Lakeland.
“That was a place that was open for 17 years,” Jamieson said. “We hope to have the same success that they did.”
The new restaurant will offer a sightly different dining experience. Jamieson said being located in the same plaza as a Publix has helped bring in business, but he always wanted a standalone building to be part of the plan. He also wanted a patio where diners could enjoy the weather and live music outdoors. The new property, he said, allows them to meet those goals with the added bonus of a lakeside view.
Jamieson and his partners also own the 1916 Irish Pub on Thonotosassa Road near Interstate 4. That location is a different concept, focusing more on drinks and lighter fare. It opened in August 2016, and Jamieson said there are no current plans to expand the pub.
“Duke’s is the brand we want to focus on,” he said.
Within six months of opening the original Duke’s on James L. Redman Parkway, the search began for the second location. However, there were a few things Jamieson knew he and his team had to get right before expanding beyond Plant City.
“We were fine-tuning the concept to take it to the next level,” he said.
That included creating a consistent brand from top to bottom, operations to front of house. The menu was tweaked to make sure it offered diverse options, while staying true to its traditional American bar fare roots. Jamieson also wanted to make sure the restaurant was able to have a large beer selection with plenty of craft brews. To keep up with the industry, a late-night $5 menu was created for an after-10 p.m. happy hour, including pitchers of Duke’s own house brews, Duke’s Blonde, a blonde lager, and Duke’s Brunette, a brown ale.
Additionally, the recipes and portions needed to be tweaked to maintain consistency. Jamieson said he wanted to offer menu items at competitive price points with similar restaurant concepts like Beef O’Brady’s.
Jamieson said his mostly female front-of-house sports bar concept draws comparison to Hooters and Ker’s WingHouse, but that he sees his brand as more family-friendly and accessible. The concept, he said, is more roots America. Filled with cowboy boots and plenty of plaid, it’s a blue-collar, rural vibe based on old-style community values.
It’s no gimmick, either. Jamieson is trying to create a brand as much as he is creating a culture. The down-home country vibe extends to the restaurant’s activities within the community. Duke’s is actively involved in the Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce and supports numerous charities in the area. It also offers internships with local culinary programs and is involved with local sports leagues.
The atmosphere extends to the staff and customer base.
“It’s a fun environment,” Amber Peacock, a Duke’s manager, said. “We work for great people. The environment is wonderful.”
Peacock, who lives on the outskirts of Plant City, started working at Duke’s as a bartender a few months after they opened before becoming a manager. Hiring locally and promoting from within is another important part of the Duke’s culture, Jamieson said, and one of the aspects Peacock thinks makes Duke’s something worth sharing outside of Plant City.
“We have a brand everyone will love,” Peacock said. “By expanding, more people get to see what we do and what Duke’s is all about.”
Most importantly, Jamieson wants people to know his modern brewhouse is all about Plant City.
“Duke’s is a Plant City original,” he said. “This is a Plant City brand.”
Duke’s Brewhouse is currently located at 2212 James L Redman Parkway. The new location is expected to open early summer and will be at 4960 S. Florida Ave., Lakeland.