By Estella R. Fullmer
For Hometown News
NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- Bikers express shock at finding out JJ Fin's Dockside, a former favorite hangout during Bike Week, is closed.
The restaurant, formerly Gilly's Pub 44 bar and grill, is at 1889 State Road 44 next to Bruce Rossmeyer's New Smyrna Harley-Davidson. The two businesses complemented each other, especially during Bike Week and Biketoberfest, according to employees of the shop. One Harley-Davidson employee who wished to remain anonymous stated "I think that's why they put the HD shop here, because Pub 44 was such a draw."
Many bikers who visited the shop each year and stopped by the pub for a drink and some food were disappointed the restaurant closed." I drove all the way from Olive Branch, Miss., for this and it was closed," Johnny Whitesides said. "I was surprised."
Others nearby echoed his disappointment.
"I was kind of surprised," said Bill English, a local resident. He said he half expected it to close, however, when the owners tried to make it into a beach bar. "They weren't exactly biker friendly," he said in reference to the changes made by owners Leonard and Michael Del Perico of New Smyrna Reality Holdings.
Another biker from Holly Hill, Denise Bagwell, exclaimed, "I was shocked! It's a shame really. It was one of the good places to come to and get something to eat and a nice iced tea."
She said she went there last year when it was JJ Fin's and enjoyed the food and convenience of it being right next to the Harley-Davidson shop.
Tom and Peggy Passwater, retirees from Ohio, also were surprised when they arrived at the former pub only to find it closed. "We enjoyed it when it was here. We came here every year. We were very disappointed when it wasn't open when we got here," Ms. Passwater said.
"This is my ninth year coming here to Bike Week and I have been in there a couple of times," another biker from Ohio, Tom Smith, said. "We could get something to eat when it was here and we are going to have to go someplace else now."
The Harley-Davidson shop is trying to keep bikers entertained and interested despite the closed restaurant. When asked if the closing of the restaurant has hurt their business, Randy Russell of the parts department said, "We still have the crowds. People still need parts and service and we have the clothes shop and the bikes for sale."
In between customers, Mr. Russell pointed out all of the activities the bike shop has planned for Bike Week. "We have a beer permit and BBQ and a DJ as well as live music by 'As Girls Go.' I don't think we are going to lose anyone because of it."
He pointed out that the live music is scheduled for 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 16, and 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday, March 17.
Bikers got a chance to see NASCAR legend Donnie Allison Tuesday, March 13, at the shop and H-D also was promoting the "Baddest Bigger Daytona" Show in the Destination Daytona Pavilion near Ormond Beach on March 15 as well as the Shooter Jennings concert on at 6 p.m. on March 16 at the same location.
Although the closing of the restaurant doesn't appear to be hurting the Harley-Davidson shop, Mr. Russell felt it was a shame the restaurant was closed and hopes someone will buy it and reopen the Pub 44. "We want Gilly back!" he grinned and customers cheered. "It would be nice to have a biker friendly business next door."
Also taking advantage of the crowd at the bike shop were representatives from the Central Florida Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America. They were offering T-shirts for a $15 donation and other trinkets like key chains and belt loops to carry water bottles. They also were conducting a 50/50 cash raffle daily during Bike Week and splitting the prize with the winner.
This was the first time the PVA had attended Bike Week festivities at the Harley-Davidson shop, according to Mike Sprouse, the Central Florida Chapter's Executive Director. "All the proceeds go to hospital programs," he explained. "We help veterans that don't qualify for grants or other programs get the help they need such as wheel chairs and money for treatments or other things like that."
In addition to Bike Week, the CFPVA is sponsoring a Charity Golf Tournament along with Venetian Bay Golf Club at 63 N. Airport Road, New Smyrna Beach, on April 8. There will be a "Hole in One" prize of a six-night trip to St. Andrews Scotland Golf Vacation and Bruce Rossmeyer's New Smyrna Harley Davidson is sponsoring a Harley 2013 DynaGlide Hole in One prize. More information can be found online at central floridapva.org, according to Mr. Sprouse.