Troubled to thriving
It’s minutes before 4 p.m. on a Monday afternoon as Steve Bissinger sits on an end-cap barstool swirling the last sip of red wine in his glass.
Closest to the entrance and farthest from the kitchen, he’s got a full view of the bar and first sight of the familiar faces walking in the door as the lunch crowd filters out replaced by those coming for dinner. His is well-sought-after real estate in the trajectory of the Tap Room’s wood-paneled dining room.
A VO Canadian whiskey and water replaces his empty glass before he even has to ask, after sitting in this chair three days a week for the past six years, “They know what I like,” he says, sending a smile and nod toward the bartender.
A man with white wine in hand lingers behind Bissinger as the amber liquid in his own glass lowers. “See the guy behind me? This is his seat,” he says motioning toward the man behind him. “Once dinner rolls around, he knows I know it’s his seat, and he knows I’ll give it to him.”
It’s a synchronized regular changing of the guard that comes with the routine of a place, he says, where the crowd’s nearly always the same, and everyone knows your name.
“Everyone comes here because it’s the place to come,” he says. “…It’s a lot like ‘Cheers.’ Everybody knows your name.”
The name most commonly bantered about the dimly lit dining room is that of the man who’s taken up shop in the back corner booth during the lull between lunch and dinner service. Laptop open, and papers scattered about, owner Steve Gunter is rarely more than earshot away from the customers who filter in and out of the College Park restaurant all day.
“The guy really knows how to do business,” Bissinger says of Gunter, “He’s always around, and he knows everybody … He’s done up the place really, really well.”
It’s praise, Gunter said, that’s always nice to hear, but that he’s quick to divert to others on his staff. It’s only with the help of his staff, he said, that he’s been able to turn The Tap Room’s struggling golf-side bar space into an award-winning restaurant and events venue since taking it over in the early 2000s.
The Tap Room at Dubsdread is located at 549 W. Par St. in College Park. For more information, visit taproomatdubsdread.com
He accomplished what five other owners in had tired, and failed to do in the decade prior, and in the process became “Mr. College Park,” said College Park Partnership Director Andrea Kudlacz.
“He knows everybody, and everybody knows Steve,” she said.
Getting there, Gunter said, required throwing everything he’d thought he’d known about running a restaurant, throwing it out the window, and starting from scratch, the key variables in that formula being his mangers Barbara Teal and Cathie Ashby.
“I assure you without both of those women I would have been a colossal failure,” he said with a laugh.
Far from a failure, since Gunter took ownership of the Tap Room the restaurant has won six Orlando Sentinel “Foodie Awards” and was named as the winner of the “Best of” in Orlando Magazine three times.
“I’m just lucky to get to come to work here everyday,” Gunter said, motioning to the expansive oak tree-lined golf green bordering the outdoor dining area. “… College Park is a great community that we’re proud to be apart of.”