White Sands acquires Owl Café, Tap Room

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This story is part of a limited series discussing changes in Apalachicola's restaurant scene. To read the overview story for the series, click here.

The Owl Café and Tap Room have been sold to a hospitality and restaurant group that has expanded in recent years, with a presence that includes several other local restaurants and hotels.

Owl Café LLC, an affiliate of the Forgotten Coast Restaurant Group and White Sands Hospitality, closed the deal last week with owners Susan Gary, Rex Humphries, and Cassie Gary. Details of the deal were not disclosed.

The three have owned and operated the Owl Café and Tap Room for 25 years.

“We’re just so happy to be handing the keys over to a local team that will keep the spirit of the Owl alive,” said Humphries. “This is a real milestone for Apalach and we’re confident that the special place we have built is in the best of hands.”

Patrick Lee and Jared Blair, managing partners oif the new ownership group, wrote in a news release that they are excited to get started, and plan no disruption of services or changes to the employee base.

“We are so proud to be representing one of Apalachicola’s most iconic and beloved restaurants,” said Lee and Blair.

“It is a local treasure and our privilege to be at the helm, delivering the same level of service and hospitality that folks have enjoyed for decades,” said Food & Beverage Director Steve Wells. “Celebrated local institutions, the Owl Café and Tap Room are known for their enviable staff and well-honed service. The transition of ownership and day-to-day operations will be smooth and collaborative with coordination on all levels,” he said.

“Friends and fans will be excited to learn that there are no changes to the staff,” said Cassie Gary. “Steve [Wells] has been working alongside the crew for weeks and is committed to keeping everyone on board. We are extremely positive about this next chapter.”

Shelley Shepard, a realtor with Berkshire Hathaway Beach Properties of Florida, handled the transaction.

The directors of the Forgotten Coast Restaurant Group LLC include Lee, Blair and Daniel Haligas, all restaurateurs from Panama City; Zach Ferrell, a real estate agent from Lynn Haven; and Steven Etchen, the managing director of Apalachicola’s Gibson Inn LLC, Apalach Inn LLC, and St. George Island Premier Properties LLC, as well as several other business ventures and investment funds.

Blair, Lee and Haligas are owners of Toucan’s on the Beach in Mexico Beach, and LongBill’s on Cape San Blas. An affiliated investment entity owns Boss Oyster, the Rainbow Motel and Caroline’s River Dining on Apalachicola’s riverfront, although all three of those have remained closed since Hurricane Michael hit in Oct. 2018.

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