In an unceremonious change of events, the popular Key Peninsula restaurant Buck’s Steakhouse and Sports Bar closed its doors at the first of the new year, leaving peninsula residents with one less place to eat on the west side of Purdy Bridge.
Residents took to social media to complain about the restaurant being closed, and how employees of the bar showed up to work to find the doors locked.
The steakhouse was opened by Joni and Clint Pipkin in late 2016 after opening a hot dog cart in the parking lot of the restaurant. At the time, the space was called O’Callahan’s Pub.
Thinking it would be a perfect spot for the gourmet hot dog stand the couple had in mind, they approached the pub’s owner, Greg Calahan, in mid-September 2016 about renting the space. But the couple ending up with more than they bargained for when Calahan talked them into leasing the whole restaurant as he headed off into retirement.
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“Our focus is to be a restaurant. We’re focused on the food part, rather than the alcohol,” Joni said in a 2016 interview with The Peninsula Gateway. “We’re trying to have families feel comfortable bringing their kids it ... (we’re) trying really hard to make it family friendly.”
Now it seems the restaurant, battered with unexpected costs, has chosen to suddenly shut down.
“The overhead and repairs (were) financially consuming every penny that came in,” the Pipkins stated on the restaurant’s Facebook page on Jan. 2. “We tried to renegotiate terms with our landlord, but were unable to come up with a solution we could agree on.”
The public statement has since been removed from the restaurant’s Facebook page. When reached by phone last week, the Pipkins declined to make any further comment on the closure to the Gateway.
In the Facebook statement, the couple cites roof leaks, problems with kitchen equipment, a broken hot water tank and a “plagued septic system.”
Calahan, who still owns the building, was also hesitant to comment on the matter, but confirmed that he already started a new lease with resident Kathy Reed.
“We are still deciding what the restaurant will be,” Calahan said. “We hope soon to move it back to a music spot.”
Reed could not be reached for comment by press time.
The Pipkins had plans to remodel the interior of the restaurant, first changing the menu, then expanding the food selection from bar snacks to a full menu offering.
Focusing on quality food, Buck’s offered burgers and steaks from Cattle Company Angus Beef, with a Cowboy Ribeye as its signature dish. The restaurant also offered breakfast all day and a children’s menu, along with some bar food and appetizers.
It was unclear whether the equipment the Pipkins used were from the previous pub or not. Calahan said he holds onto his own business license and liquor license for just-in-case happenings, such as the issues with Buck’s.
Calahan said he wants to keep owning the building but is thinking of slowly liquidating the building so he can officially retire. Calahan did not confirm if Reed will reopen as O’Callahan’s Pub or if it will be a brand new restaurant.
The Pipkins wrote in their statement that they tried to put their lease for sale to recoup some lost finances, but were unsuccessful after Calahan started a new lease with Reed. The future of the Pipkin’s hot dog truck is undetermined as they try to decide the future of their business.
For now, Calahan said, Reed is working closely with him to make the needed fixes in the building and to design a restaurant that will benefit the small, tight-knit community on the peninsula.