The management team and staff at Pensacola’s newest incoming restaurant have set out to stand out.
With a mission statement like that, it’s no wonder they coined the name Black Sheep Tavern and Sports Pub, a new establishment that should be open in East Pensacola Heights by early September.
“Everyone that we’ve gathered so far, from management to the employees we have recruited, wants to be a part of something different and something better,” said Simon Courtney, the owner of the new restaurant going into the vacant building at 3102 E. Cervantes St. “We want to take the restaurant culture and elevate it to a new level.”
Replacing Calvert’s in the Heights’ original Cervantes Street location after Calvert’s relocated to Scenic Highway in the spring of 2021 is Black Sheep Tavern, a restaurant and bar that promises elevated pub fare and a fun late night environment for an area that is lacking on the latter.
“We’ll have the TVs and stuff inside so there will be 15 different TVs set up in various areas, every room will have different things going on in it,” said Courtney, a restaurateur of more than 20 years. “We talked about having a billiards room, a dart room. We’ll have a stage set up for live karaoke and live music events. Bar bingo, trivia, things like that.”
While scoping out a location earlier this year, Courtney and his team said they liked the Cervantes strip ahead of Scenic, particularly because there was a void in that area of the kind of restaurant he envisioned.
“Unless you’re downtown, everything closes up around 9 or 10 o’clock,” he said. “So it’s like, ‘Do I want to go to Waffle House or Whataburger?’ Which, I love Waffle House or Whataburger, but this is a place that will be an alternative. Something that’s sports bar casual, has some good food and good drinks, and a place you can go to catch the end of a game, hang out with people and have a good time.”
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“High end comfort food” is the way Courtney and Black Sheep Tavern Executive Chef John Smith describe their menu and approach to food. Courtney said he and Smith are aiming to take such traditional pub fare as burgers, wings and nachos and reimagine them.
“Loaded nachos, loaded tater tot ‘tot-chos.’ The flavors will be unique and different, like, you can get wings anywhere, but we’ll have bourbon bacon jam wings, we’ll do a peanut butter wasabi wing, a scampi wing, things like that,” Courtney said. “We’ll have a buffalo grilled cheese melt that looks really neat.”
The idea is to not only avoid the standard basic bar food label, but to also curate a menu full of easy-to-make items, which is important in getting food out of the kitchen and onto your table for a restaurant that expects to be slightly understaffed out of the gate.
“Chef’s got all kinds of great ideas,” Courtney said, of Smith. “The original concept was to keep it simple, so between the staffing thing and just costs it’s like, ‘OK, how many ingredients can we re-use to do things differently?’ So chef’s already got his mad scientist hat on thinking, ‘We can do this, we can do that, tncorporate seafood here.”
On the bar side of the equation, Courtney promises some forthcoming “showmanship” with his cocktails and how they’re presented.
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“We have some stuff that isn’t being done in Pensacola involved in the way our drinks are going to be done,” he said.
The restaurant overall will seat about 200. The outdoor patio at Black Sheep not only will feature 30 to 40 seats and such games as cornhole and Giant Jenga, but also a light-up, LED Black Sheep Tavern logo sign that the staff thinks will become a fixture on Instagram and Facebook feeds all over the city.
Courtney said that more than anything, he wants to quickly establish a deep rapport with the community. He hopes the culture Black Sheep cultivates and the relationships it builds with fellow small businesses will help it get to that place.
“We want to do a lot of collaborating on the menu, so we’re going to get our bread products from Craft Bakery,” Courtney said. “We’re going to get custom-made gelatos from Dolce & Gelato off 12th Avenue over here. De Luna Coffee is going to do our coffee and tea for us. We want to be able to say we’re using your products, and if you’re OK with it, put your logo on our menus. And then when people say, ‘Hey, we really like this.’ We can say, ‘Well you should go there and try some more.'”
Initially, Black Sheep plans to open from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m., six days a week. Courtney said they hope to get to a point where they open even later than that, but they’ll play the closing time by ear this fall.
Wednesdays will be the only day Black Sheep is closed.
Jake Newby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-435-8538.