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Cody's, Sea Dog join forces in Clearwater

Cody’s Roadhouse and Sea Dog Brewing have merged in a new business concept that occupies one building. Cody’s has the restaurant space and Sea Dog has brewing tanks and a separate tasting room with a bar and some tables. Cody’s also serves fresh-brewed Sea Dog.
Cody’s Roadhouse and Sea Dog Brewing have merged in a new business concept that occupies one building. Cody’s has the restaurant space and Sea Dog has brewing tanks and a separate tasting room with a bar and some tables. Cody’s also serves fresh-brewed Sea Dog.
Published Feb. 12, 2015

CLEARWATER

The familiar roadside signs are there. An aged, clapboard facade gives that roadhouse feel. That and the peanuts on the floor.

For the most part it's still the same Cody's Roadhouse, except this one has a Sea Dog craft brewery attached to it.

After a recent merger of the Clearwater outlets of the two chains, the marriage is working and could bring changes — most notably Sea Dog craft beers — to other Cody's franchises.

"Cody's has an aging clientele but we could use a little element of something new and exciting," said Mark Weber, manager with the restaurant chain. "This could be something unique."

Sea Dog Brewing Company opened its first Florida operations two years ago in an expansive building off U.S. 19 and Enterprise Road.

It was the first expansion for the Maine brewery into Florida. A location in Orlando opened next. While the craft beer was flowing, problems brewed inside. There were constant menu changes and the cavernous bar never seemed full.

There were struggles from the start partly because of the construction along U.S. 19, said Dan Bolduc, spokesman for Sea Dog in Florida.

The brewpub closed in May 2014 and reopened with the new concept Oct. 6 when the owners of Sea Dog, who own the building, bought the Cody's franchise and moved it about 50 feet.

A hallway filled with Sea Dog T-shirts and other items connects the tasting room with the roadhouse restaurant. Here there are no peanuts on the floor. There are rich leather couches and some TVs — it's like a humidor meets a living room. Mug club mugs hang on the wall beneath the shiny beer taps.

"We decided we were going to spend more time on the brewery and steer away from the restaurant side," Bolduc said.

They kept selling beer, even increasing production. Sea Dog is on pace to brew about 6,000 half-barrel kegs this year, Bolduc said. They are considered local because they use Florida water, he said.

The blueberry ale is extremely popular as well as Shipyard beers, also owned by Sea Dog. They added a small batch brewery and expanded to increase production with a 20-barrel brewing facility in April.

"We're also able to experiment a lot more with that size facility," Bolduc said. "Which helps us generate new beers that have worked."

They developed the Pinellas Trail red ale. The Trick or Treater, a peanut brown ale. They also released a beer in collaboration with St. Pete Brewing Company in December, Bolduc said.

"We're working with other breweries to create these beers as well," Bolduc said.

The Cody's Roadhouse in Countryside also serves as a Cody's university, training managers, servers and other employees before they work at one of the chain's other locations. The restaurant was in the corner of a strip center for about 17 years.

While the roadhouse-themed restaurant did a good business, other restaurants failed nearby in the outparcel space.

"That corner has been jinxed for a while," Weber said. "I don't think that's the right corner for two major chains duking it out."

As Sea Dog struggled, the lease at Cody's was getting ready to expire. After some discussion it was decided. The Sea Dog owners bought the franchise and moved it. And sales are up 30 percent since the merger, Weber said.

While most of the Cody's crowd sips Bud Light, the bar features eight taps of Sea Dog and Shipyard brews. Weber said Sea Dog brings something new and exciting.

"As craft brewing is becoming more and more open to public, by having a brewery on site, customers we are selling beer to are getting it one or two days old," Weber said. "We could envision craft beer being a part of the Cody's chain as well."

While there have been some growing pains from some of the regular customers, others like the change.

Glenn Custer, of Dunedin, sat in the tasting room at Sea Dog sipping a Monkey Fist IPA.

The move worked out well for Custer, who had to split time between the two places before they merged. Now, when there are too many people in the restaurant, he can come in the back, get a beer, and order some food later.

"Cody's is nice but it's so busy," Custer said. "That's why I like back here. I can get a seat."

Inside Cody's, Fernando Vallecillo sipped a Sea Dog IPA seated at the corner of the bar with Paula Stramacchia. The pair come out to the restaurant at least once a week for the last four years.

What does he like about the change?

"Craft beer at Cody's prices," Vallecillo said.