Gainesville artist and former University of Florida football star player James Bates was dodging raindrops on Thursday as he delivered to Spurrier’s Gridiron Grille restaurant 18 paintings he crafted of UF head football coaches who won SEC championships.
Bates, an All-SEC linebacker and co-captain of the 1996 national championship team, helped the Gators win four SEC titles during his college football career. He was inducted into the Florida/Georgia Football Hall of Fame in 2014 and went on to use his degree in telecommunication to host play-by-play analysis that earned him three Emmy Awards.
According to restaurant partner and entrepreneur Freddie Wehbe, those portraits were headed up to the second floor to the Visors sports bar Champions Room and are part of some finishing touches going on at the latest addition to Celebration Pointe.
Wehbe, along with Frankel Media Group, has been responsible for managing the marketing and creating a buzz about the place through his social media and advertising campaigns, and by personally giving tours.
So far, 6,500 people have visited the restaurant and heard about all the details from menus to decor from Wehbe, who said he wanted to make sure people knew exactly what the restaurant was all about.
“A lot of people thought it was a steakhouse or sports bar,” Wehbe said. “The tours elaborated that and built excitement.”
With a soft opening starting this weekend, a ribbon cutting on Aug. 10, and the official opening on Aug. 11, staff and management are busy finishing up details.
Wehbe said the food lineup would be revealed on Friday but posted a video of the menu on Thursday flashing pages from the wine list, starters and entrees.
He did share details about some of his favorites dishes.
“It’s about ingredients,” Wehbe said, naming off some of the creative titles for recipes on the menu: Orange and Blue Shrimp, Ike Hilliard Catch of the Day, Chicken and Wuerffels, and more.
The double-sided bar has original offerings as well.
There’s The Kick, the SOS—as in Steve Orr Spurrier—the Spurrier Margarita and two beers crafted by local First Magnitude Brewing Company: the 1966 Lager and the 5220 Pale Ale, which was the score of 1997 championship game that UF claimed over rival Florida State University.
Wehbe said the plan is a phased opening, starting with the main restaurant opening on Aug. 11, followed by the upstairs Visors bar in early September and, finally, the addition of a delivery service and brunch after that.
The end goal for Spurrier’s Gridiron Grille is to employ 375 people, but the team is starting out with 150 staff this weekend, according to Wehbe.
For more information on the restaurant or to make reservations, visit the website or call 352-500-4422.