CLEARWATER BEACH — Rusty Pearl, the Sunset Cinemas creator who’s been involved in a number of business ventures in the area over the years, is about to open a new establishment in Clearwater Beach.
Pearl is in the process of completing Pearly’s Beach Eats, a casual outdoor eatery that will feature quick food sold out of a small building at Poinsettia Avenue and Papaya Street.
Construction at the 2,700-square-foot lot is under way, with a target date of mid- to late August for the grand opening.
“It’s going to be a small place to grab something quick and casual to eat,” Pearl explained. “We won’t have many items — tacos, burritos, burgers and such — but what we have will be good.”
While fast casual food is not a new concept, the idea of opening an establishment with no indoor seating or wait staff off the main drag of Mandalay Avenue could be classified as a risky undertaking.
Yet Pearl is confident his business will succeed.
“I like this area as opposed to Mandalay because when people go on vacation, they’re looking for that little local yokel place one block off the main drag that has great food,” he said.
“It helps with the mystique. Then when this area fills in, we’ll be right in the middle of all the action.”
Pearl is no stranger to taking chances with businesses on Clearwater Beach, or what he likes to call “the Island.”
Shortly after moving to Florida in 1976, he opened a concession stand on the beach, and later he became the first person in the area to run a parasailing operation from a motorized platform.
In addition to involvement with a number of restaurants over the years, including managing a Hooters and owning an eatery in New Port Richey, Pearl also owns the popular Sunset Cinema, which features family movies most every Friday and Saturday evenings at Pier 60 Park.
“What most people don’t know is that Sunset Cinema is owned by Rusty Pearl. It was his idea to create this unique ‘movie under the stars’ concept that is free to the public,” said Lisa Chandler, owner of Pier 60 Concessions and Sunsets at Pier 60 Festival.
“Rusty has been an amazing partner to the festival and Clearwater Beach. I’m looking forward to the opening of his new restaurant.”
Pearl believes his extensive restaurant experience, coupled with his deep knowledge of life on the island, will help make his new concept work.
Offering casual food in a relaxed atmosphere is a perfect fit for the area, he contends. The outdoor patio will seat 80, be surrounded by lush tropical plantings and will feature live music.
“The problem with some beach restaurants is the wait is so long. It’s very inconvenient when you’re just looking for a quick bite to eat,” Pearl explained. “So my thinking was to provide simple food with no waiting and no inside dining.
“I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel here. I’ve had a lot of failures and a lot of successes in this business, and you learn a little from every one of them. Everything indicates this could be a perfect storm here, with the location and the concept. I think it’s a good fit.”