The story of a good restaurant or bar usually includes great food, friendly service, a rocking venue and a cast of colorful characters known as regulars. When you enter an establishment, you observe the cleanliness of the place, if you were acknowledged by a cheerful server, and if there is a good vibe. If all passes your judgement, you decide to stay. Sarasota has certainly seen its share of popular places come and go. Such is the nature of the service industry where newer chains of restaurants and popular craft beer establishments catch the eye of the public and older places are left in the dust.
But some places around town have reached iconic status for featuring class act after class act of musical talent, being the breeding ground for new friendships and providing a friendly place for people to hang out. This was the case with the Flying Dog Cafe, a Sarasota tradition for nearly twelve years which closed in 2015. For Bruce Famiglio, owner, the decision to close was far from easy.
When you talk to Bruce about the Flying Dog Cafe, he is quick to point out that the establishment was much more than a business to run. It was also more than a local hangout for countless musicians who made their way through the doors of the FDC, where the time there spent jamming for friends proved to be crucial to their now thriving careers. How many bonds were formed, marriages created and dissolved, and friendships solidified? Too many to count, according to Bruce’s recollection. To this day, he still receives nods and words of thanks for having the bar where so-and-so met his wife, and where customers became friends, and friends sometimes became lovers. He saw partnerships established, businesses formed, and has been on the receiving end of lifelong friendships, all because of his time as owner of the FDC.
The reasons behind the closure of this beloved landmark are not unfamiliar to business owners everywhere. A tough economy, health issues, and a desire to spend more time with family spurred Bruce on to make the decision to close. He was fraught with concerns over employees and musicians, not to mention a boatload of regulars who would be displaced. But as is often the case with life’s tough decisions, the end had to justify the means, and the Flying Dog Cafe saw its last days.
The true legacy of a place like that is told in the countless stories and memories that are shared by so many in the community. Like a six degrees of separation situation, many locals can trace their roots back to the Flying Dog Cafe where at one time or another their paths probably crossed with other people looking for great live bands and good bar food. A reunion of sorts is in the works for this fall, where Bruce anticipates a good showing of regulars, musicians, and employees will gather for an amazing time of reminiscing and socializing.
So what is Bruce Famiglio up to these days? The first thing he’ll mention is the two loves of his life, Sophia and Julianna, his beautiful twin daughters who were named after the starlets, Sophia Loren and Julianne Moore. Bruce is loving the day-to-day time with his girls who are both enrolled in gifted learning programs at their school. An agenda of movies, shopping, beach time and just hanging out fills their days as summer fun progresses to the start of the new school year. He is loving the time that being out of the bar business is affording he and his daughters and says, that frankly, they mostly just talk a lot, which is crucial when raising his tweeners.
Besides being single dad in charge, Bruce has returned to another of his life’s passion, selling real estate. With a real estate license in hand by the time he graduated from high school, Bruce has always shown an intensive ambition toward all of his endeavors. He prides himself on finding the perfect home in and around Sarasota for not only the millionaires, but the working people as well. Being a single parent, he understands that finding affordable housing can be challenging but promises there are plenty of fairly priced gems on the market in many of Sarasota’s unique neighborhoods.
With a thriving real estate business and two growing daughters to raise, there isn’t a lot of time to explore dating options. But, Bruce feels that everything happens at the right time and the time for love may be quickly approaching for him. Being a connected and outgoing person, he admits that it’s difficult to put yourself out there even when you’re a people person by nature. He believes you can meet the right person almost anywhere as long as your mind is open to it. And for now he’s confident that although closing the Flying Dog Café was one of the toughest decisions of his life, it has been for the better. He’s aware of just how much the community loved his place and wants them to know that high level of love and respect was a two-way street. The era of the Flying Dog Cafe represented a time of love, friendship, and kick-ass music for many locals. Like all iconic establishments, the memories created there and retold by many will keep it alive for years to come.
photos by Bruce Famiglio