Keith Overton, a local hospitality tycoon, already has the happy hour routine planned out.
Once it’s time for the post-work cocktails to go on sale, the new Orange County Chopper Roadhouse & Museum will roll out a flame-throwing motorcycle to dazzle diners.
What else would you expect from a new restaurant concept created by Overton, the former president of St. Pete Beach’s TradeWinds resort, and motorcycle customization genius turned reality TV star Paul Teutul Sr.?
The restaurant’s premier location will open at the border of St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park this spring on property next to an existing Harley-Davidson retailer. Teutul and Overton hope the new eatery will be just the beginning of what they hope to become growing chain of chopper-themed restaurants.
“I kept every piece of memorabilia over the last 20 years, the original sign when we first opened a motorcycle business, everything you could possibly think of,” Teutul said.
The concept is a little bit Ford’s Garage and a little bit Hard Rock Cafe. But instead of cars or music mementos, the restaurant will feature custom choppers and memorabilia from Teutul’s Discovery TV show, American Chopper.
Those familiar with the Orange County Chopper, or OCC, brand are likely fans of Teutul’s reality TV show, which follows his family drama and custom bike shop in Orange County, N.Y.
“Paul’s brand is probably the second most known motorcycle brand after Harley-Davidson,” Overton said.
Teutul became a part-time Florida resident about a year ago. He has been splitting his time between New York and a farm in Brooksville, but plans to eventually live in Florida full-time. That will be easier once his new custom bike shop opens up next to OCC Roadhouse. The whole property will become a motorcycle destination for bikers and onlookers. The adjacent 9-acre property is already anchored by Bert’s Barracuda Harley-Davidson and bike school.
Bert King, the Harley store’s owner, always envisioned the complex becoming like a country club and entertainment atmosphere for bikers.
“I had a restaurant concept I was going to put in,” King said, “but this was a bigger and better fit.”
In addition to the ongoing construction, the property already has large pavilion that can hold concerts for big crowds or shelter bikes from the hot sun or rain. The shop alone already draws thousands — even folks who just want to stop in quick on the way to the airport to get a St. Pete Harley T-shirt.
“If you look at Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough, there’s over 54,000 motorcycles registered,” Overton said. “We’re one of the top five motorcycle regions in the country.”
Overton, who was the president of TradeWinds for 25 years before selling the business last year, said he’s using his post-resort career to focus on projects he’s passionate about. He already has a few of Teutul’s custom bikes in his garage and had previously worked with him and King to create the outdoor festival BikeFest, which attracts 75,000 visitors every year.
It will cost more than $6.5 million to build out the team’s full vision: 11,000 square feet of indoor space that can seat 325 guests, outdoor dining, a menu featuring classic American fare, a pool hall, floor games like Kan-Jam and regular concerts. Several as-seen-on-TV bikes will be on display, as will a commemorative wall of thousands of patches Teutul has been gifted by members of the military and first responders over the last three decades. Service members who visit also will able to add their own patches.
The men all see the appetite for motorcycle culture.
“I want our customers to experience a sociability that is very unique, and Paul fits into that,” King said. “He has such a huge following and is so genuine with his fans.”
Overton said usually about 30 percent of BikeFest goers don’t have their own motorcycle, they just like the scene and maybe dream of one day getting a bike. King said 40 percent of his retail sales are on clothing and other trinkets. The market for a restaurant is there, according to the entrepreneurs, and it will draw more than just riders.
Overton wants to license out the concept and could seeing upwards of 10 more locations in the next four years. He has already been out scouting locations that could work well: anywhere warm year-around usually attracts motorcycle heads.
That’s, in part, what brought Teutul to begin moving his life and business to Florida. He and his wife still ride regularly, but in New York there’s only three to four months a year they can be on the road.
Teutul said he’s still in contact with Discovery TV, so fans may be able to expect another American Chopper special sometime soon. For now, he’s doing his best to learn about the restaurant business, excited to see how Overton brings the vision to life.
“He knows what he’s doing,” Teutul said, “and another reason he will be successful, is because I’ll never be in the kitchen.”