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Tin Whiskey opens its doors in Cocoa Village after 2 years of renovation

COCOA VILLAGE, Florida. – A week after the soft opening of Tin Whiskey Southern Kitchen & Still in Cocoa Village, and owner Stevie Whittaker still feels dazed.

“Honestly, I think we’ve waited so long, it hasn’t been figured out yet,” she told News 6 partners Florida Today.

The expectation she is referring to is nearly two years of renovations on the former home of Norman’s Raw Bar & Grill on Forrest Avenue.

Whittaker closed Murdock’s Southern Bistro, a restaurant and bar on the south end of Cocoa Village that she had owned for 20 years when her lease ended in June. She bought the property from the Normans in March 2020 after an eviction threat in February.

She hoped to open the new venue in fall 2020 and then fall 2021. Supply chain issues and labor shortages, as well as construction delays, caused the project to drag on. longer than expected.

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“Just when we were installing the tongue and groove in the ceiling outside, that’s when the price of lumber skyrocketed,” she said. “Then we waited forever for the pizza oven.”

The result of all this work is a space unrecognizable from what it was before, with vast covered outdoor spaces and rustic indoor dining areas decorated in wood and copper tones.

Taps of craft beer, including a pouring Tin Whiskey Blonde Ale, made a few blocks from Bugnutty Brewing Co., are affixed to a copper still. That, and the tin roof, inspired the name of the restaurant.

A brick fireplace, one of Norman’s remaining remnants, anchors the main dining room.

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Another throwback that preceded Norman’s, which opened in 1969, was discovered as workers were digging in the area surrounding the building. They found horseshoes and other rusting metal artifacts in a blacksmith shop on this block over 100 years ago.

Some of the items will be displayed in the main room of Tin Whiskey.

As they got closer to opening night, Whittaker said she had nightmares about no one. She didn’t have to worry.

The restaurant filled up on January 20, its first night of operation. It was Thursday.

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“Then all of a sudden Friday came along,” she said. “If we beat that number at Murdock, I don’t remember.”

“This number” is the money brought for a single night. The waiting list was three hours long and there were four people at the bar waiting to order.

There has been a wait for a table every night since.

For now, Tin Whiskey is open from 4pm to 10pm Tuesday to Friday and from noon to 6pm on Sunday. It is closed on Mondays to allow staff time to recuperate.

Eventually, she plans to open for lunch and Mondays, but she wants new hires to be fully trained and everyone familiar with the new equipment and environment.

Murdock had 24 employees; all but one work at Tin Whiskey. Whittaker was able to continue paying them for the six months between Murdock’s closure and the opening of the new restaurant.

Having these experienced and familiar people working – especially General Manager Joel Robberts and Reception and Bar Manager Emilia Posanti – kept things running smoothly. Whittaker said she was proud of how they handled the crowds and there weren’t many complaints, even with the long wait times.

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Tin Whiskey has over 50 employees. It’s a much bigger place, with 219 seats compared to Murdock’s 99, and 144 of those seats are outdoors. This is partly because outdoor space was available, but also because of COVID-19.

Whittaker knew pandemic diners wanted to be outdoors, even in the scorching heat of Space Coast summers. When the city implemented new curbs in front of the restaurant, making it difficult to access parking spaces, it reworked the renovation plans to include expanded patios.

There are indoor and outdoor stages, and eventually entertainment will be added, but that too will have to wait for the crowd to die down.

The menu is basically the same as what’s offered at Murdock, with lots of burgers, sandwiches, cheesy jalapeño grits, and flatbread pizzas. A few items were removed, such as bone-in fried chicken and tacos. Whittaker said it was because they needed to streamline some offerings to make the kitchen run more smoothly.

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After 20 years at the south end of Cocoa Village, Whittaker is still getting used to the new place. It is bordered by busy King Street (State Road 520) and Forrest Avenue, which has significantly more traffic than Brevard Avenue in front of Murdock’s building.

“It’s still kind of weird,” she said. “My car just wants to go to Murdock. But I like it here. It’s fun to watch the world go by.

Tin Whiskey Alembic and Southern Cuisine is at 3 Forrest Ave., Cocoa Village. Call 321-633-0600 or visit tinwhiskey.com or facebook.com/tinwhiskey. Hours are 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. There is street parking on Florida Avenue and Oleander Street, and a city parking lot is less than a block away. For those who want to park closer, the Elks Lodge across the street offers parking for $5.

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