Make us your home page

Brooksville mourns death of Red Mule Pub owner Les Jinkens

BROOKSVILLE — Steve Smith, manager of the Brooksville Walmart, was one of a steady stream of customers who stopped by the Red Mule Pub on Monday morning to console Julia Jinkens on the death of her son, Les.

"People have been so nice," said Jinkens, hugging Smith. "I didn't know he was that important. By golly, he must have done something right."

The important thing that Les Jinkens did right, or at least the thing that caused the widespread mourning after his sudden death of an apparent heart attack on Saturday at age 67, was open the Red Mule.

Jinkens quit a promising banking career 36 years ago to create a pub that, unlike many of the chain restaurants that have opened since, was clearly stamped with his personality and that of his town's.

"It's part of what Brooksville was and what Brooksville is," said Blair Hensley, who owns a restaurant in town.

Jinkens' brother and business partner, Tim, put up the faded, felt banners of his favorite sports teams and the many photos of Hernando County's star athletes.

Just about everything else belonged to Les Jinkens.

"If it's sports, it's Timmy," Julia Jinkens said. "If it's nostalgia, it's Les."

That includes the leather mule harnesses attached to the walls and the old plows hanging from the ceiling.

Les Jinkens' childhood hero was Hopalong Cassidy, which explains the publicity stills of the actor who played him, William Boyd, and of Gabby Hayes, who played Cassidy's sidekick.

Perched above the new big-screen television is a much older and slightly larger Harley-Davidson sign. And even that is dwarfed and pre-dated by a black-and-white poster of two Weeki Wachee Springs' mermaids from around the time of the attraction's opening, in 1947.

Les Jinkens gave the place its sound as well as its look. His favorite performers, Jimmy Buffett, Bob Seger and the Marshall Tucker Band, were played not just in a regular rotation but "in and endless loop," Tim Jinkens joked on Monday.

"If you liked them when you started working here, you probably wouldn't by the time you left."

Julia Jinkens is the member of the family best known for community service; it's why she was named the city's Great Brooksvillian in 2012. But Les Jinkens was involved, too, said Brooksville business owner, Tricia Bechtelheimer.

He was always willing to make the pub available for fundraisers, she said. The Red Mule Runners, a club founded about the time the pub opened, still holds its meetings there. And for several years in the 1980s, Bechtelheimer said, the pub hosted a regular Thursday gathering of representatives of service clubs and businesses.

"A lot of brainstorming was done over beers; a lot of community problems were solved at that back table," she said.

That table was Les' favorite spot — where he "did his bossing," his mother said, and entertained customers such as Smith, who were also friends.

Of course, he won't be there when the pub hosts an unofficial memorial immediately after the official one, which is scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday at Merritt Funeral Home's Brooksville chapel.

But it's comforting to think that he put so much of himself into the pub, his mother said, and that the pub is still going strong.

"We're not going anywhere," she said.

Dan DeWitt, can be reached at (352) 754-6116, or

Brooksville mourns death of Red Mule Pub owner Les Jinkens 06/09/14 [Last modified: Monday, June 9, 2014 9:51pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Last steel beam marks construction milestone for Tom and Mary James' museum


    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom and Mary James on Wednesday signed their names to the last steel beam framing the 105-ton stone mesa that will be built at the entrance of the museum that bears their name: the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.

    The topping-out ceremony of the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art was held Wednesday morning in downtown St. Petersburg. Mary James (from left), husband Tom and Mayor Rick Kriseman signed the final beam before it was put into place. When finished, the $55 million museum at 100 Central Ave. will hold up to 500 pieces of the couple's 3,000-piece art collection. [Courtesy of James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art]
  2. Heights Public Market to host two Tampa Bay food trucks


    TAMPA — The Heights Public Market announced the first two food trucks for its "rotating stall," which will feature new restaurants every four months. Surf and Turf and Empamamas will be rolled out first.

    Heights Public Market is opening this summer inside the Tampa Armature Works building.
[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times file photo]

  3. Author Randy Wayne White could open St. Pete's biggest restaurant on the pier

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story begins with Yucatan shrimp.

    St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, pilot Mark Futch, Boca Grande, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and author and businessman Randy Wayne White,  Sanibel, exit a Maule Super Rocket seaplane after taking a fight around Tampa Bay off the St. Petersburg waterfront, 6/28/17.  White and his business partners are in negotiations with the City of St. Petersburg to build a fourth Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier with a second event space on the pier according to White. The group met near Spa Beach after a ground breaking ceremony for the new pier. "We want to have our business open by the time the pier opens," said White. Other Dr. Ford restaurants are located on Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers Beach. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
  4. Guilty plea for WellCare Health Plans former counsel Thaddeus Bereday


    Former WellCare Health Plans general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District …

    WellCare Health Plans former general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday, pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District of Florida stated Wednesday. [LinkedIn handout]
  5. DOT shows alternatives to former Tampa Bay Express toll lanes


    TAMPA — State transportation officials are evaluating at least a half-dozen alternatives to the controversial Tampa Bay interstate plan that they will workshop with the community over the next 18 months.

    Florida Department of Transportation consultant Brad Flom explains potential alternatives to adding toll lanes to Interstate 275 during a meeting Wednesday at the DOT’s Tampa office. Flom presented seven diagrams, all of which swapped toll lanes for transit, such as light rail or express bus, in the I-275 corridor from downtown Tampa to Bearss Avenue.