The shuttered Rooney’s Public House — a key building in the revitalization of downtown Abacoa — is scheduled to reopen this summer as a wine bar/restaurant.
“This restaurant will draw people from Delray Beach, Stuart and other areas outside of Abacoa. We have not had that,” said Josh Simon, a principal with FLF ATC LLC, the Jupiter-based company that bought downtown Abacoa in 2014 for $5.1 million.
Aaron Fuller, now the food and beverage director at Mar-A-Lago, is leasing the building and will be the chef. The 42-year-old Columbia, Ill., native plans to spend about $350,000 refurbishing the 2,700-square-foot restaurant that has been vacant since June, 2014.
There will indoor and outdoor seating — picnic tables on the sidewalks — for about 110 people, Fuller said. Aaron’s Table & Wine Bar will feature farmer-to-table foods. A long wood table will seat about 18 for wine tastings for private events. Beer and wine will be served.
“We’ll have an herb garden over here,” the Abacoa resident said on a recent Monday morning, leaning up against a wall in the deserted, dark building. “We’re fixing up and keeping the Rooney’s bar. Lots of people have good memories of that bar. Me included.”
Customers from a spring training game at nearby Roger Dean Stadium will feel comfortable ordering a cheeseburger. In the evenings, reservations will be accepted, said Fuller. He and his wife Analyn live in Abacoa and have two children, Autumn, 10 and Aaron, 12.
Opening the restaurant in the three-story building on Town Center Drive is another step in reviving the area, said Danny Simon, also a principal in FLF ATC LLC.
The outside walls of the former Rooney’s building were painted with bright red flying cardinals. Workers on cranes last week were repainting the exterior of the other buildings. New awnings have been installed. New landscaping and direction signs are planned. New businesses like Crux Coffee Roasters are moving in. A mini-golf course is planned.
“We’re aiming for a family-orientated area that is a destination for all ages,” said Simon.
FLF ATC LLC is affiliated with Jupiter-based FLF Holdings. Along with its affiliated entities, which is involved in Jupiter redevelopment projects such as Barcelona Jupiter, a 352-unit luxury apartment community on Military Trail, and the Jupiter Business Center, a 50,000-square-foot business center on Heritage Drive.
The Rooney family, owners of the Palm Beach Kennel Club, operated Rooney’s for about 14 years. The Rooneys are majority owners of the Pittsburgh Steelers professional football team. U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee, is a family member.
“Business has been hurting since 2008. With the opening of all the new restaurants along PGA Boulevard and Donald Ross Road, and the fixing up of Downtown at the Gardens, the competition was tough,” said State Rep. Pat Rooney, R-West Palm Beach, told The Palm Beach Post when the restaurant closed.
Rooney’s closing was a big hit, said Dennis Witkowski, owner of JJ Muggs Stadium Grill, located a couple blocks from the former Rooney’s.
“Rooney’s brought lots of football fans, especially Pittsburgh Steelers fans, during the football season. On St. Patrick’s Day, their customers filled the entire downtown. It’s been sad since they left,” said Witkowski.
Aaron’s Table will deliver a new clientele to the area, said Witkowski.
“Millennials will like the place. So will the high-end crowd. The new restaurant will fill another niche. It will be a perfect fit,” said Witkowski.
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