Debi and John Klenk have owned Bottles Pub for nearly 23 years.
PINELLAS PARK – It might sound cliché, but Bottles Pub is truly a place where everybody knows your name.
This neighborhood bar has served Pinellas Park for nearly 40 years. Of these four decades, Debi Klenk and her husband, John Klenk, have owned and operated the watering hole, located at 5619 Park Blvd. N.
One of the first times Debi stepped foot in Bottles was after her mother and stepfather purchased it in 1994. Unfortunately, just one year later her stepfather suffered a stroke. She and John stepped in to help and eventually bought the bar themselves.
While Debi and John work elsewhere – Winn-Dixie and the Walmart SuperCenter, respectively – at first, the couple spent all of their time working at the bar. They didn’t hire their first bartender for a decade.
“A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into this place,” John said.
Debi added, “It’s been a very long haul. Very many stories, very many memories.”
When they first purchased the bar, which is located in a former post office, they carried over the previous owner’s membership program. Members would ring a buzzer to be allowed entry to the bar. Those with a lifetime membership to Bottles had “bragging rights,” John added.
By the time they did away with the membership program, there were around 1,500 members in the logbook, he said. He even still has his own membership card, and many of those early members still frequent the bar.
“Of those still living, the top 10 members still come in here,” he said.
The couple has seen a lot of changes to the neighborhood over the years, Debi said, especially over the past year and a half, which saw the rise of the Pinellas Arts Village, a creative arts district, in the blocks around the bar.
Previously, a rescue mission operated out of space next to Bottles, which drew many homeless individuals to the area.
“A lot of people were afraid to come in [here] before because they were never really quite sure,” Debi said.
But the city purchased the rescue mission’s property, as well as several other properties in the area to foster small businesses and an arts district, which grew following an October 2015 urban redevelopment pop-up event called Better Block.
For the Better Block event, Bottles purchased additional insurance on its property in order to extend an outdoor patio at the back of the building.
“It’s something we wanted to do forever,” John said.
The city also stepped in to improve the parking lot behind the strip where Bottles is located.
“It was just a dirt parking lot, with cracked cement, no grass, no shrubbery before that,” John said. “They did a great job.”
As the city began organizing monthly art walks in the district, Bottles also got involved. They grill burgers during each fourth Saturday event, have had local brewers visit the bar during art walk and have hosted live music. Talk to Mark will perform during the Saturday, April 22 event from 6 to 9 p.m., Debi said.
They’ve also added numerous local craft beers to their tap, which they offer at a competive price of $3.75 a draft.
“Craft beer is a form of art,” John said. “That’s our contribution to the arts district.”
Bottles also started Drag Queen Bingo on the first Monday of every month at the beginning of the year.
“I was all over it. I said, let’s do it,” Debi said. “A lot of regulars said, ‘Are you serious? Have you lost your ever-lovin’ mind?’ and I said, ‘Open up your mind. We’re all people.’”
She said the Drag Queen Bingo nights are a lot of fun and she’s seeing a mix of new faces and regulars.
“It’s been quite the talk of the town,” said Alexis De La Mer, who hosts the bingo night.
He added, “I’m always up for a challenge, so I was quite excited that a local pub in Pinellas Park would actually welcome a drag queen. So it’s been a great response from the community and I’m glad to be there.”
The bar also offers Got It, a form of Bingo, on every other Monday night each month.
Other regular events include karaoke several days a week and free barbecue on Sundays, which is family friendly, Debi said.