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For many out-and-about residents in downtown Fort Lauderdale, old Progresso Plaza is better known by a nickname that acknowledges its long history. The “Laser Wolf building” is shorthand for a popular bar that has been there for more than a decade. That’s 10 years!
The triangle-shaped building at 901 Progresso Drive, which has in fact been a neighborhood landmark for nearly 100 years, may soon acquire another label when a new pizza restaurant and bar opens on the ground floor across the courtyard from Laser Wolf.
Patio Bar & Pizza, a 2,500-square-foot restaurant with plans for another 2,500 square feet in outdoor seating, is likely to redefine the vibe of the building, which faces the Brightline/FEC railroad tracks at the prominent confluence of Northeast Third Avenue and Progresso Drive.
Currently under construction in the ground-floor corner space once home to Wine Watch, Patio Bar & Pizza is owned by South Florida hospitality veteran Brian Parenteau, who expects to open in late December or early January.
The 45-year-old Massachusetts native, who was part of the management team that created the instantly hot Beach House Pompano, is best known for his two popular spots in Wilton Manors: DrYnk Bar & Lounge and Tulio’s Tacos and Tequila Bar, the latter opening in the middle of the pandemic last December.
Like many who came before him, Parenteau has an appreciation for the “charm and allure” of the Spanish-style two-story structure, at once iconic and ignored. The space Patio Bar & Pizza will occupy sat empty since Wine Watch moved around the corner in 2018.
“I love the building. It’s a 1925 historic building and has a ton of characteristics that we can kind of play off, keep it vintage, keep it old feeling,” says Parenteau, who lives in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
Location is also key for Parenteau — the patio faces the buzzy MASS District and Flagler Village; after Progresso Drive runs past the restaurant and jogs north, it becomes Northeast Fourth Avenue, then has another name change to Wilton Drive, the main drag in Wilton Manors.
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“This is an up-and-coming, cool area, artsy, music,” Parenteau says. “Progresso is the connection from downtown to Wilton Manors, and this is a heavily traveled street. There’s a ton of visibility here.”
Parenteau says the menu at Patio Bar & Pizza will be simple: pizza and salads. The bar will offer beer, wine and spirits, and likely be open until 2 a.m. on weekends. He believes there will be a mutually beneficial synergy between Patio Bar & Pizza, Sidewalk Bottle Shop and Laser Wolf.
The Patio Bar & Pizza patio will take up most of the courtyard in front of the building, but one corner will remain in the hands of Laser Wolf. Parenteau’s vision for his section of the courtyard is “sexy, comfortable.”
With all due respect, the gents who run Laser Wolf are not about sexy. They don’t even care much for comfortable. And they have a famous “no jerks” rule. Parenteau has been to Laser Wolf, is aware of the rule and says that he himself is not a jerk. But …
“We don’t have the same ‘no jerks’ policy,” he says, laughing. “We’ll let anyone in.”