Peg’s Cantina and Brew Pub, a Gulfport institution known to most simply as “Peg’s,” closed its doors for good on December 20. Co-owned by Peg Wesselink and husband Tony Dodson, Peg’s had a laid-back vibe, and was a place where locals and visitors alike could sample craft beer and enjoy an eclectic Mexican-inspired menu.
Peg, Tony and Doug Dozark, Peg’s son, opened the original restaurant, Peg’s Pizza-Cantina, on Gulfport Boulevard in 2004.
“We wanted to create a welcoming space and an international dining experience,” says Dodson. “We hoped that by offering pizza, Mexican food, beers, wines and coffee from around the world, we would find success. Thanks to Gulfport, it worked.”
By 2007 Peg’s had outgrown the little space that seated approximately 25 customers, and they began to rehab a bungalow they purchased in downtown Gulfport at 3038 Beach Blvd.
“We were excited about the prospect of outside dining in a tropical garden, excited about serving a larger customer base and excited about developing the future,” says Dodson.
The Tampa Bay beer scene was beginning to take off. Dozark, a brewer who interned at Cigar City Brewing Company in Tampa, began brewing on a small system behind the new location of Peg’s.
“The beer scene is a special story, and Gulfport led the way. One local businessman recently told me that when we established Gulfport Original On Draft (G.O.O.D.) beer in 2009, he wondered why we would brew beer. Now, he said he wonders why he didn’t think of it,” says Dodson. “Doug was charting new ground – Saint Somewhere and Dunedin were the only other breweries in Pinellas County – and the city was charting it with us.”
Peg’s Events, such as the Barrel Event which typically debuted a dozen or so barrel-aged taps, drew beer lovers by the hundreds who would wait outside for hours before Peg’s opened. A few years ago, in need of space, Doug took his company, Cycle Brewing, to downtown St. Pete. Peg and Tony created Orange Belt Brewing, a niche brewery making sour ales and saison farmhouse ales with brewer Eric Trinosky.
Currently, Peg and Tony are looking for a new location for Orange Belt Brewery that has yet to be determined.
“As we reflect on the last eleven years it is rewarding to recall how truly organic Peg’s turned out. The growth of the garden, friendships and the locally crafted beer scene impressed us. Seeds were planted, literally, by so many, we cannot take credit for the success of our garden or our business. It was a group effort, over time,” says Dodson. “We would like to thank all of you for the many years of support and wonderful memories.”
Peg’s regulars were disappointed to see one of their favorite Gulfport locations close its doors.
“Peg’s was one of the reasons we purchased the location across the street for our art studio,” says August Vernon, co-owner of August Vernon Studios with his wife Susanne. “We went there for dinner often. Peg and Tony are great people.”
“Peg’s was Gulfport’s version of Cheers in bringing to life the ideas expressed in the TV show’s theme song: ‘Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name/And they’re always glad you came.’ Intelligent conversation, good food and finely crafted beer were the staples of an evening at Peg’s,” says Michael Taylor, a Gulfport resident who frequented Peg’s since 2007.
“Wednesday night won’t be the same without Peg’s,” says Paul Kavin of St. Petersburg. “For many years, I enjoyed great friends, food and beer each week. Peg’s will be missed, and I wish Peg and Tony good luck on their new venture.”