Eric and Julie Audit are the proprietors of Castaways TacoRita & Beach Bar in Madeira Beach. They have been operating in Madeira Beach for several months.
MADEIRA BEACH – You have to look hard to find it but when you do, you realize you have come to what can only be described as a place where the locals go – a place that the neighborhood embraces, a Florida version of “Cheers,” the legendary Boston bar where “everybody knows your name.”
The place is Castaways TacoRita & Beach Bar, 13437 Gulf Blvd., in Madeira Beach. It opened just a few months ago, in July 2016, and so far, according to the owners, it has been as successful as they hoped.
Castaways is located where the old Mad Bar once stood. That establishment catered to local fishermen, ready for a cold one after a day on the water. It was not a place where families and groups of tourists felt comfortable.
Then in October of 2015 a fire caused the place to shut down. Enter Eric and Julie Audit, who saw an opportunity. They bought the property and renovated the bar to what it is today.
“It was rundown and smoky, then there was the fire and for the first time in 52 years it was vacant,” said Eric.
Audit said it was because of his wife that they started the business.
“Julie grew up in Madeira Beach,” he said. “She wanted to do this, it was her dream. We found the place after it became available and opened this up.”
It wasn’t something that happened overnight, dream or no dream. Eric Audit had retired four years before and now it was back to work. Bringing the place up to snuff was something the couple tackled by themselves.
“It was a major renovation,” said Julie. “We’ve remodeled quite a few houses in the past. In this case it was more of a cleanup and redecoration. There was no structural work that had to be done. We came in everyday for four months and worked hard.”
The name of the place, Castaways TacoRita & Beach Bar adequately describes the type of establishment it is.
In one door is the bar, Castaways, in the other door it is the restaurant, TacoRita. Inside it all comes together in an open, yet cozy, place to sit and relax.
The food is mostly Mexican. Audit says they are particularly proud of their Taco Tuesday specials. Also there is a long list of craft and domestic beers on tap.
Operating such a place is nothing new for the couple.
“I was a hotel food and beverage executive for 30 years,” said Eric.
His background and Julie’s ties to the area were a perfect fit for the business.
For the past several years they have lived in Seminole. Their daughter is a graduate of Seminole High School and works in the business. Their two sons, older, have grown up and gone, according to Julie.
The family is planning to move to Madeira Beach in the near future. Julie says it would be a natural thing to do.
“It is a great place and for me it was a great place to grow up,” she said. “It still has that small town feel, that small town community and we have lots of friends.”
Business-wise there could be changes in the future too. The couple plans to expand the menu and eventually open for breakfast. They also haven’t ruled out the possibility of opening other locations.
The Audits are happy with the progression of the business so far. Finally, they say, it is doing fine. But beyond that they both say that being a part of the community and being good neighbors is most important.
“We were immediately embraced by everybody, and every day we meet new people and tourists that are coming in. It is a very satisfying endeavor,” said Eric. “Not just financially but the friends and bonds that we have made.
“The neighbors have been happy to see a clean, fun beach bar that they can all go to. It has been an enriching experience, it really has.”
“We are very happy with the decision, it is better than expected,” said Julie. “Knowing what it was like before we weren’t sure how people would react but the residents have embraced us and everybody feels good. Our customers all know one another. It is a little ‘Cheers.’”