By: Dan Macdonald
It didn’t take long between Avondale losing a restaurant and learning of a new one taking its place.
Owners closed Barrique Kitchen & Wine Bar on May 29 because of retirement.
On May 31, Josh Floyd, an experienced restaurant manager, bought the business. On June 6, he announced plans to open Josephine.
It will serve modern interpretations of Italian food favorites.
The restaurant is at 3563 St. Johns Ave. in the Shoppes of Avondale. That town center has long been a restaurant hub for Avondale, Ortega and Riverside.
Until a year ago, Floyd, 41, was the beverage manager at Biscottis, which is across the street from his planned restaurant.
He said it is serendipity to have his dream of owning a restaurant so close to familiar surroundings. It took about eight months to buy the restaurant.
“What started as a casual conversation turned into something that really got its feet under it,” he said.
“In the deal, I acquired all of the assets including the liquor license, which is transferable, and it comes with an attractive lease.”
Floyd has some silent investors and declined to release what he paid Barrique Kitchen & Wine Bar for the business.
He plans to spend $250,000 adding his own cosmetic ideas to turn the spot into an Italian-inspired restaurant. Opus Group is the contractor and the build-out will be based on Floyd’s vision with the help of Five Points-based decorator Fitz Pullins.
Floyd expects the restaurant to be open in mid-September to early October.
The space is only 5 years old, so the kitchen equipment is relatively new. He wants to brighten the dining room decor by adding new lighting throughout, installing his own style of booths and banquettes and remodeling the bar with a quartz top.
Two existing rooms in the back will be used for special events like wine dinners as well as making the smaller room a listening room for live music.
Floyd expects the capacity to be about 140 customers.
He expects Josephine to be stylish but not upscale. Food and service will be held to a high standard but there will be no tablecloths.
When open there will be between 35 and 45 employees. Having worked in several Jacksonville restaurants, Floyd has gathered a team of past colleagues he wants to employ to form the backbone of his front-of-house crew. He has narrowed his choice of chef to two candidates. This decision will be crucial.
“I have a clear and concise vision of what I want my first menu to look like. The chef I hire will first and foremost have to have experience in this style of cuisine and making pasta in-house and possess good leadership abilities. I want the chef to see the vision and be excited about helping us create it.”
Classic cocktails will be the standard. Floyd developed the Biscottis cocktail program.
“Some of the cocktails will be Italian in nature like the Negroni and spritzes. My goal is not to have drinks with five to 10 wild ingredients. I want to serve beautiful cocktails and accentuate them with how they are served,” he said.
The classic martini may come on a small silver tray with the restaurant logo embossed on it with the olives and twist on the side.
The wine list will be a mix of old and new world varietals but will not be a daunting book of choices.
“In the beginning, I am going to build it slowly into a bigger list. I’m not doing to inundate you with a list that takes 15 minutes to figure out what wine you want to drink.”
Josephine will be open seven days a week for lunch and dinner with brunch on Saturday and Sunday. Happy hour will be from 3-6 p.m. Monday through Friday. He is conscious of the economy and said prices will be consumer-friendly. He is creating a flexible menu to accommodate fluctuating food costs.
“Instead of passing costs on to the guests, I want to be able to change the menu when needed to keep prices in line.”
The two-block strip of stores and restaurants along St. Johns Avenue has limited parking, a challenge not unique to Avondale, he said.
“It’s that way any place I go – New York, San Francisco, Nashville – anywhere where you have districts where there are restaurants where people want to dine there will be parking issues. But much of our customer base is within a mile of us so they can take a beautiful walk to dinner.”
Josephine is named after Floyd’s grandmother. She was a woman of the South, not an Italian granny. When he was little he would be outside roughhousing, working up an appetite for her traditional Southern-style cooking, he said.
The cuisine may not be the same, but he wants to recreate how he felt eating at her house.
“Her name kept coming back to me. She provided a big family environment whether we were having a big meal or playing cards or a game of Scrabble. I want it to be a good time when people come here,” he said.
“I want this to be a place where people come to make memories.”