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Landmark Sarasota bar and restaurant sold, new owners to maintain 4/20 theme

  • By Jim DeLa
  • | 10:45 a.m. April 17, 2024
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
Munchies 420 Cafe has gotten a facelift and the new owners are vowing to continue the Gulf Gate landmark's traditions.
Munchies 420 Cafe has gotten a facelift and the new owners are vowing to continue the Gulf Gate landmark's traditions.
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  • Manatee-Sarasota
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It’s been a local landmark for decades, and if its new owners have their way, the Munchies 420 Cafe will continue to be the go-to place in Sarasota for late-night food and drinks.

At the corner of Gulf Gate Drive and Superior Avenue, in the Gulf Gate neighborhood of south Sarasota, the cafe has gotten a facelift and is planning a grand reopening Saturday on — you guessed it — 4/20.

New owner John Kirk acquired Munchies through RK Hospitality Group, which  he calls "a restaurant management company … with the objective of acquiring and managing independent casual dining venues. We acquire venues with well established local brands as well as outstanding reputations for food quality that can be converted to sports and 'eatertainment' themed concepts." RK Hospitality Group was founded in 2023.

Kirk says rebranding the restaurant was never an option. “For a couple of decades now, this has been a place that people went to and really enjoyed,” he says. 

“There’s something for everybody; the food quality is exceptional. And the menu was really unique, you know, it has these fat sandwiches and unique sauces, and these world-famous wings.”

The wings got national attention several years ago on the TV series "Man v. Food" on the Travel Channel. For the record, Adam Richman failed the 10-wing “Fire In Your Hole” challenge. 

They are creating a menu dedicated to the 420-based theme. ‘It's all tongue in cheek. Since this isn't a recreational (marijuana) state, we don't have anything to do with the sale of cannabis or anything like that,” Kirk says. 

For Kirk and his partners, the building and location were exactly what they were looking for. “We saw a place that had incredible bones. It's a great commercial area, it's a fun nighttime area, for people of all ages to kind of come and socialize,” he says. 

The place is actually two bars in one. A Tiki bar on the corner is next to a pub area “that looks like an old English pub, where you go and watch a soccer game … or something like that,” Kirk says.

While the brand will remain intact, the new owners will embark on a sorely needed facelift and renovation. The project will cost in excess of six figures, Kirk says. He declines to disclose what RK Hospitality Group paid for Munchies. “The physical facility got a little tired,” Kirk says. “And so we just viewed it as an opportunity to come in and revitalize it. And make it once again, the hospitality cornerstone of Gulf Gate.”

Munchies 420 has new signage, fresh paint and new furniture in the pub and tiki bar. A state-of-the-art sound system and 16 big-screen TVs have been installed.

A game room has been added in front for younger clientele and families. “So for the folks that may not be 21, they can come in and grab some food and go in the game room, they can hang out the tables out front,” Kirk says.

Kirk and his partners are also planning special events. “We have live music, you can watch games. We are hosting watch parties in the fall for all the big football games,” as well as big pay-per-view events.

The important thing, Kirk says, is that the tradition continues. “It didn't matter who we spoke to, whether it was a 25-year-old … or a 65-year-old, when we told them we were thinking about acquiring munchies, they all got a warm smile on their face. 

“And we just thought, man, there's just too much goodwill in this market. You know, for this venue, we've got to revitalize and bring it back and make it the kind of the cornerstone that always was.”

The grand opening starts at noon Saturday, April 20. Kirk describes it as a big block party. “We have the whole parking lot, a big stage outside. They’ll be DJs and bands playing until 2 in the morning.” 

The festivities include raffles and giveaways and vendors. “Some of the dispensaries and some surfboard shops and some clothing vendors will be here too,” Kirk says. “It's basically just the [420] festival more than anything else.” 

Munchies 420 Cafe is open from 4:20 p.m. to 3 a.m. Sundays to Thursdays; and 4:20 p.m. to 4:20 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. 

This story originally ran in the Sarasota Observer, sister paper of the Business Observer.



Jim DeLa

Jim DeLa is the digital content producer for the Observer. He has served in a variety of roles over the past four decades, working in television, radio and newspapers in Florida, Colorado and Hawaii. He was most recently a reporter with the Community News Collaborative, producing journalism on a variety of topics in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties; and as a digital producer for ABC7 in Sarasota.

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