The Tampa Tribune’s food writer since 2005, Jeff Houck covers the way people live through their food. He also hosts the Table Conversations food podcast and believes that everything crunchy is good.
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Kim Bailey Keeps His Catering Operation, Closes Davis Island Restaurant [Thanks For Nothing, RNC]
Posted Oct 3, 2012 by Jeff Houck
Updated Oct 3, 2012 at 06:37 AM
I’ve been a fan of Kim Bailey‘s for a while now, almost since he opened Bailey’s Catering & Restaurant on Davis Islands in Tampa about a year and a half ago in the corner space that used to be Chez Bryce (and Pipo’s before that).
So I was glad to hear during the summer that he was going to be one of the few restaurants that would be able to hook into the giant marlin that was the Republican National Convention.
Bailey’s had a great reputation for high-end Southern comfort food but the location was a challenge. As I said, the spot has been home to many solid restaurants that never found a sustainable audience or enough of a draw to entice diners to go across the bridge from Bayshore and Downtown during non-lunch hours.
Bailey temporarily closed his restaurant to solely focus on RNC business and even built a catering kitchen above Jackson’s on Harbour Island. He needed three 18-passenger vans, two cargo vans, a refrigerated semi-truck and almost 120 workers running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 2 weeks. It about killed him from exhaustion, but he told me he was pleased with the outcome.
Closing for a month during the deadest part of the year and getting a cash infusion from catering for the RNC would give Bailey’s the kind of financial boost just about every restaurant would kill for.
Or so I thought.
I got this note from Bailey yesterday, confirming a rumor I had heard for some time:
I’ve been really busy since the RNC - I can’t believe it has been over for a month now. Time moves too quickly. I couldn’t tell you then [due to a non-disclosure agreement], but we handled the food pantry for Bloomberg Communications, and with all the other RNC work we did, I bet our numbers were closer to 10,000 meals as opposed to the 6,000 we originally thought.
I wanted to let you know that I’ve decided to close Bailey’s Restaurant… or should I say, not re-open from when we were closed for RNC. I brought on Mark Newkirk (owner of the Patio), as a partner to handle the bar side since I’m not a bar guy. He would handle the bar, and me the food. Last Tuesday, while getting ready to send out my blog menu to 6,000 people - I was preparing Bailey’s menu for 7 days a week from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m., including Saturday and Sunday brunch, dinner and lunch 7 nights.
As I looked at the daunting task ahead of me, I decided that my heart was just not into such a huge operation. I will continue Bailey’s Catering out of the same kitchen, for we are booked through the holidays and beyond. The bar with bar food will be operated, and solely owned, by Mark Newkirk of Fountain Square.
For two years, Bailey said he felt the restaurant’s bar needed work. After meeting Newkirk, they threw around some concepts, including something akin to the Clevelander in Miami, Bailey bought into the concept long enough to do a soft opening on Sept. 20.
“Then I had to progress to the menus for lunch, dinner, and Saturday and Sunday brunches… which I did. It kept nagging at me that I was getting consumed, and the question was - did I really want to do this? Well, I made up my mind last Thursday. That simple… or that complex. No drama - just a life choice to go in a different direction.”
Bailey says his primary focus will now be consulting to restaurants and catering firms nationwide, something he wanted to do for a while. He incorporated RCC - Restaurant & Catering Concepts. (“Matter of fact, I even created a Web site 5 years ago - but felt it was not the right time and wanted to get a bit more restaurant seasoning under my belt.”)
His “Food Talk with Kim Bailey” radio talk show on WWBA 820 AM, which runs 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays, will continue as well. He also is planning to start a blog with video and recipes that will also be posted on You Tube.
“It is a fun and exciting time for me - and as you know, I love good food - and hope to be a part of the industry for years to come,” Bailey says.
If the crowd last night at Fountain Square is any indication, the bar may be what that corner needed:
Bailey’s catering operation can still be reached at (813) 254-8018 and at www.BaileyCatering.com.