“I was here for about four months and I tried to experience every beach and every beach bar and restaurant from Pass-a-Grille through Clearwater, and I felt like it was definitely missing something,” Karla Penner, owner of Lucky Lizard Taphouse said. “I love the beach and I love this area. I felt like they did a great job on the dirty dive bars and greasy food. So, I was tired of it, and decided to build something different.”
Penner moved to Florida in 2019 after a seven-month stay in the Caribbean. But, before her island sabbatical, she lived in Colorado where she owned several bars and managed midwest musicians. When she returned from the Caribbean, she thought she’d retire, but, according to Penner, the lazy days of “sitting in the sand” were too boring for her. So, she combined her passion (she claims she’s “a beer person at heart”) with her previous work experience, and decided to open Lucky Lizard Taphouse, a destination offering 24 taps, 65 beers, 35 seltzers, a few wines, and lighter fare beach food.
The restaurant does not have a grill or a fryer. Instead the kitchen uses a pressure cooker to cook the meat. Penner wanted most menu items to be ready between seven and 14 minutes.
“I wanted to keep it simple, but good food,” she said.
The name Lucky Lizard stems from her Caribbean excursion. Penner told The Gabber Colorado does not have lizards, but she grew fascinated with the innumerable species of geckos and iguanas crawling on the islands. She thought to herself, “if I ever have another bar it’ll be [named] lizard something.” When Penner bought the new joint, she brainstormed a name combining her love of lizards with her Irish heritage, and coined the name Lucky Lizard.
“I didn’t want to open up something that was going to be a competition, but more complimentary to the area, something that wasn’t already here,” Penner said.
While sharing nachos or Penner’s favorite midwest staple (beef carpaccio), catch some tunes from local bands playing the venue. Peenner told The Gabber she hires local talent who don’t usually play other beach bars, like Larry Mott, Savanna Lee, and Audrey Short.
“There’s so many great people and I want it to be a good base for them to come in and show their talents. And it being a little bit smaller, it’s not so loud. You can talk, it’s not background music by any chance, but it’s something different from the area and it seems to be going well,” Penner said.
Penner’s business bustles with tourists and everyday beach-goers and she predicts the next 5 to 10 years promise even more business. But, for now, she’s happy with the customers she serves.
“The clientele that I knew was here is finding us and it is extremely encouraging that we’re doing the right thing,” Penner said.
Learn more about Lucky Lizard.