Take 5: Rodney Mayo, guiding light of South Florida’s indie entertainment scene

To say the South Florida nightclub and restaurant scene would be a much more bland and boring place without Rodney Mayo would be a great understatement. From humble beginnings in 1987 at his Respectable Street Cafe in downtown West Palm Beach to today’s empire of 13 hip bars and eateries with more in the works, Mayo has been at the forefront of South Florida’s growth of independent, wildly creative nightspots.

Respectable Street 25th anniversary party

He’ll be celebrating his 25th year in business on Aug. 25 when Respectable Street hosts its annual block party on Clematis Street. The event will feature four stages and 25 bands, including punk legends The Misfits. The entire event is free and also will feature an open bar from 8 to 9 p.m. at participating clubs. We’ll have more updates as the event approaches, or check Respectable Street’s Facebook page.

We caught up with the reclusive Mayo recently at his latest project, the Hullabaloo gastropub, set to open this summer across from Respectable Street in the old Lounge space. Adjourning next door to his surf-themed Longboards restaurant, we posed these five questions:

Since we’re sitting here at Longboards, my first question is: What was the inspiration for Longboards?

Rodney Mayo at Longboards

Always on call: Rodney Mayo at Longboards in May 2012. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

“A couple good friends who are longboarders. It’s that culture and lifestyle. It’s kind of a laid-back lifestyle, stuck in the ’50s. And even though they weren’t born in the ’50s or lived through that era, they kind of hold onto that culture of the ’50s surfer. I decided it would be neat to create a place around that environment, as well as the ideal.”

All your ventures seem to be nothing like each other. Is there a common thread that runs through all of them?

“Hopefully that they’re unique, and they offer something that you can’t get in that particular area.”

What kind of a venture would you do if profitability wasn’t a factor?

“Make a movie. If money and profit weren’t any concern, yeah, I would make a movie.”

What’s your favorite club to DJ at?

“Respectables, because I can pretty much get away with playing what I want to play there, and the crowd still enjoys it.”

(Note: You can still find Mayo spinning at Respectable Street on some late Saturday nights, but “not that consistently anymore,” he says. “I’m getting lazy.”)

Next to Longboards (left), the space formerly occupied by The Lounge will soon become Hullabaloo

Next to Longboards (left), the space formerly occupied by The Lounge will soon become Hullabaloo. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, May 2012)

What do you do in your spare time away from the club and restaurant business?

“Sleep! And I like to go boating, and I fly, so I like to go fly places. And sleep.”

Note: Mayo is owner or part owner of Respectable Street, Longboards, Lost Weekend, Feelgoods, and Howley’s in West Palm Beach; Dada, Tryst, and Delux in Delray Beach; Kapow! Noodle Bar and The Dubliner in Boca Raton; The Vagabond in Miami; and Lost Weekend and Kill Your Idol in Miami Beach.

Past coverage
* New downtown West Palm Beach gastropub to feature small bites, craft cocktails
* Dick Dale at Respectable Street (photos): April 2012 | June 2011
* Kapow! explodes onto South Florida dining and cocktail scene
* Clematis Street rides a new wave with the opening of Longboards
* Surf’s up: The story behind Longboards

Take 5: See our other interviews

About Hurricane Hayward

A professional journalist and Florida resident for more than 30 years, Jim "Hurricane" Hayward shares his obsession with Polynesian Pop and other retro styles on his blog, The Atomic Grog. Jim's roots in mid-century and reto culture go back to his childhood in the 1960s, when he tagged along with his parents to Tiki restaurants and his father's custom car shows. His experience in journalism, mixology, and more than 20 years as an independent concert promoter make him a jack-of-all-trades in the South Florida scene. A graduate of the University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications, Jim is a longtime web producer for The Palm Beach Post. In his spare time, he has promoted hundreds of rock, punk, and indie concerts under the Slammie Productions name since the early 1990s. In 2011, he launched The Atomic Grog to extensively cover events, music, art, cocktails, and culture with a retro slant. Jim earned his nickname by virtue of both his dangerous exotic drinks and his longtime position producing The Post's tropical weather website.
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