Brothers Glenn and Gary Sutch opened Coco’s Crush Bar in Clearwater Beach after more than 30 years in the hospitality and entertainment industries. Home of the Orange Crush, Coco’s has made waves in the area with a fantastic seafood menu, live music, and signature-crafted cocktails. They have expanded to 3 locations, with others in north Clearwater Beach and Indian Rocks Beach.
We sat down with Glenn to go over the history of the restaurant, its brand, and what is on the horizon for the successful beachside business.
Drinking Buddies Interview
How did you get your start in the hospitality industry?
“I started working for this company, Entertainment Consulting International, based out of Baltimore, Maryland. They did consulting for hospitality businesses and I was able to learn a lot about the industry in my time there. I would always come down to Florida to watch the Phillies in spring training, so I figured it would be a great place to venture out on my own. I moved to Orlando and opened up a golf entertainment place called Drive Shack and made it a point to drive down to Clearwater Beach every weekend. Eventually, my brother and I decided to make Clearwater Beach the location of our next business and the rest is history.”
Can you tell us more about the food and cocktail menu at Coco’s Crush Bar?
“I am from Ocean City, Maryland, which is famous for its Orange Crush cocktail. It just dawned on me that no one knew how to do them right down here so that cocktail would become the focus of our cocktail menu. We also decided to bring Maryland-style seafood, like the jumbo lump crab cake, down here for a bit more Mid-Atlantic authenticity.”
I noticed that you use Coco’s Crush Orange Vodka for those cocktails. Is that a proprietary brand?
“It is! We just came out with it this year. We were buying so much orange vodka for our Orange Crush drinks that I figured we could just make it ourselves. We partnered with Big Storm Brewing Company and went through development. It took 14 months, but we are now able to distill our own orange vodka made with pure Florida cane sugar. It’s gluten-free and has a really nice orange flavor profile.
Starting pretty soon, you’ll be able to purchase it in both Island Liquor stores in Clearwater Beach.”
That’s great! Do you have any plans to expand regionally with your vodka brand?
“We’re going to keep it local now. I have some connections back up north who would love to have it, but we want to take it slow for now. It’s not so much about distribution for us, but giving our customers the chance to take some of Coco’s back home with them.”
What is your most popular cocktail?
“The original Orange Crush is by far our most popular drink. We made over 100,000 of them last year in two locations. There are 15 other varieties of it with skinny versions, tequila versions, and bourbon versions –so there are a lot of different ways you can order it. At the end of the day, it’s about the crushed ice, the ingredients, and the fresh-squeezed citrus that we put in every drink. There is nothing pre-done about any of our drinks.”
What is it with the crushed ice?
“It makes for a better cocktail! It holds the liquor and citrus better and it doesn’t melt as fast. It’s also called nugget or flake ice and you have to have special machines to produce it.”
What is a standout food item on the menu?
“The Maryland jumbo lump crab cake is for sure one of our signature items. We also have the Monkey Balls, which are like an appetizer-sized version of that item. We’re also famous for our all-you-can-eat snow crab legs as well.”
Coco’s was voted #1 on Clearwater Beach by the Chamber of Commerce. Can you speak to that accomplishment?
“That was at our OG location. I always like to tell people that we have a chill, tiki beach bar vibe. Everyone knows they can be themselves here and that we’ll take care of you and make you feel a part of the community here, which is a huge difference on the beach. We have live music seven nights a week, so I think that helped put us up in the rankings. We have an all-encompassing atmosphere and everyone loves that outdoor beach feel they get while here.”
How do you find your live entertainment?
“We have some regulars that are here all the time. I do all the booking for the entertainment and it is all local music. We always wanted to have that live music component to our business here. I have a background as a DJ and have been in the live entertainment space for a while. I love to see people’s natural talents and showcase them to our customers.”
I saw Coco’s also does private events. Which types of events do you host?
“We do so many wedding parties here. There is always someone coming in here week to week. We’ve hosted sports teams when they are in town for games. For example, we’ve hosted the Phillies, Ravens, and Eagles here, where the whole team comes in and takes over the bar. Our Indian Rocks Beach location has its own private room that people can rent out.”
Did you always have expansion plans with Coco’s?
“I’ve been an entrepreneur for a long time and when the right opportunity presents itself, it’s important to take a look. The north Clearwater Beach and Indian Rocks Beach locations were no-brainers and they have both worked out for us pretty well. We get calls for potential expansion locations all the time, but it’s important to us to verify its potential before diving in.”
How has Fintech helped with your alcohol management across your different locations?
“For me, as the operating partner of Coco’s, Fintech has been great. As the business grows, your controllables become more difficult to manage. Fintech has been a great partner since day one. The reporting tools with price discrepancies are a great tool that I look at every month. Then, I can go to my reps and have better conversations with them about our alcohol and work through any pricing issues.”
The Indian Rocks Beach Coco’s is the newest location and is open for business! If you are ever in Clearwater or Indian Rocks Beach and want to try out an Orange Crush, Coco’s Crush Bar is the place to go. We thank Glenn and the Coco’s Crush Bar team for being a Fintech client and for bringing a piece of Maryland to the Sunshine State.
Check out their website for more information.